In the words of Alice at Bella’s birthday party, “It’s time! It’s time!” For months and months, we have been counting down the weeks, the days, and now we are counting the hours and minutes until the release of New Moon in theaters here in the US (no fair, Europe, Asia, and Australia!). What an exciting ride it has been!!

I was a latecomer to the Twilight universe, but I quickly made up for lost time. My sister gave me Twilight as a birthday present in January and I read the book in six and a half hours on a cold, rainy Sunday in Tennessee that resembled the weather in Forks. I promptly ordered New Moon from Amazon and knocked it out in a similar timeframe, ordering Eclipse and Breaking Dawn while in the middle of that book. An ice storm in Kentucky delayed my shipment and my sister reluctantly loaned me her books until mine came in. I was hooked and sucked in beyond belief, reading all four books in less than a week. I quickly jumped on the bandwagon of pre-ordering my Twilight DVD and finally got to see the film around the time the cast reported to Vancouver to begin filming.

I suppose that the first thing that I paid attention to with regards to New Moon was the change in directors. As we all know, there were many fans angry about Catherine Hardwicke not being at the helm of New Moon. I, for one, was thrilled that they passed it along to someone with more directorial experience – particularly a strong CGI background. And there was the drama surrounding whether Taylor Lautner would reprise his role as Jacob. The boy went above and beyond to secure that role and it would take an act of Congress and an edict from the Pope to ever replace him. Taylor owns that role and boy-howdy, did he ever earn it!

Then we started following the set reports from Vancouver and devouring and analyzing every photo that made its way to the web. We saw the cast during their tests for hair and makeup, and saw that the makeup is MUCH better this time around! No more looking like a roving band of mimes for the Cullens! While we were able to see bits and pieces of things from filming, we weren’t graced with very much. Chris Weitz and his team went to great lengths to keep the filming locations under wraps to keep fans at bay. (Not that it stopped fans from seeking out the filming locations.) Unlike during the filming of Twilight, the actors were unable to venture out to enjoy the Vancouver nightlife without being stalked mercilessly by the paparazzi. There were lots of rumors about Nikki and Rob and Kristen and Rob, and there were pictures and speculation, and rumors galore. And who could forget Rob at the Oscars, dazzling everyone on the red carpet!!

The cast headed to Italy to film what many of us feel is the most exciting part of the film and the books. Fans turned out in droves, planning their vacations around the shooting schedule in Montepulciano. Photos of a shirtless Rob about to expose himself to sunlight hit the internet and servers crashed around the world as Twi-Hards took to the blogosphere to look at every last one and study them intently. There was debate over whether those were Rob’s real abs or if they were cosmetically enhanced. Did we really care? If you were that excited about the pictures, whether they were real or not is pretty irrelevant, n’est ce pas?

The cast wrapped filming and then there were the MTV Movie Awards and the infamous “almost kiss” between Kristen and Rob and then the first teaser trailer. I haven’t watched the MTV awards in years, but I set the DVR so that I wouldn’t miss that. While the first iteration of wolves was not nearly as cool as the final product, I was blown away with what I saw. I loved the richness of the colors in the film – a million times better than the blue tint of Twilight. The makeup was significantly better and the special effects…OME!!

Fans analyzed every little bit of footage that we could get our hands on from Comic Con and even took to the internet to find clandestine clips from Comic Con – a large part of the scene in Italy and Bella and Jacob riding the motorcycles. I watched those poor-quality videos several times, getting chills as I saw Bella running through the piazza. That’s when I decided that the fan base needed to come out with “Team Chris” t-shirts and my desire to see him do Breaking Dawn really started to grow.

Summit launched the website for the film, allowing us to watch the trailer over and over and take a look inside the Cullen’s home, the Volturi’s lair, and La Push. Fans could download wallpaper, view photos, and much more. It was almost a one-stop shop for our Twilight fix. During the downtime, we were entertained by gossip rags spreading ridiculous rumors about Rob and Kristen, and other cast members.

We saw more trailers and the cast returned to Vancouver for filming Eclipse. Things got off to a rocky start with Rachelle LaFervre being replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard, sparking a backlash from the fans toward Summit Entertainment. There were petitions and threats of protest. Eventually things died down and everyone got down to business. This time around, we saw even less of the key members of the cast due to overwhelming paparazzi presence in the city. Filming locations were even more top-secret. We got our fixes by analyzing tweets from Peter Facinelli and David Slade. It seemed strange to be so excited about the filming of Eclipse when New Moon was still in post-production.

A friend of mine feels like not much will be a surprise, commenting that there’s so much footage already out there. I was quick to point out that there’s so much that we haven’t seen yet in the clips. We haven’t seen Bella catatonic at home and we have hardly seen anything with Charlie or Billy. We haven’t seen all of the footage of Bella crashing into Edward in Volterra and their reunion. We have not seen all of Bella’s birthday – Jasper being restrained by Carlisle and Emmett, nor Carlisle stitching Bella’s arm. Perhaps, even most importantly, we haven’t seen any footage of Edward in Bella’s room after they return from Italy and we haven’t seen clips of the voting scene. They’ve put out just enough to pique interest, but they haven’t given away everything like many people feel they did with Twilight. They have done well on holding back this time around.

It is now the long-awaited eve of the movie release. I remember thinking that it seemed like an eternity for when this day would arrive. I have watched countless interviews from the press junkets, watched cast members on countless talk shows, and read countless articles about the cast and filming of both New Moon and Eclipse. In my 38 years on this planet, I don’t think that I’ve ever been so excited about a movie release. I bought my ticket for the midnight showing the day that they went on sale. My husband thinks that I’ve lost my mind, but I don’t care. I am looking forward to seeing this franchise take things to the next level and give Stephenie Meyer’s book the respect that it deserves on the big screen and I think that Chris Weitz will deliver. In just a few more hours, we’ll all have the chance to see how well he succeeds and to be reunited with our imaginary friends in Forks.

How do you feel about the movie’s release? Are you excited or indifferent? Are the flaws of the first keeping you from wanting to see this installment? Join us in the forum and tell us what you think – speak out!