Beautiful Creatures

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Gatlin, South Carolina, Ethan Wate awakens from a recurring dream of a girl he does not know. In voice-over narration, he describes his enjoyment of reading banned books, his despair of his small-town existence, and his dreams of leaving for college. Arriving for his first day of junior year, Ethan notices newcomer Lena Duchannes, who resembles the girl he has been dreaming about. The other students do not take kindly to her and spread gossip regarding Lena’s reclusive uncle, Macon Ravenwood, and suggest that her family includes devil worshippers. Overhearing these whispers, Lena tenses and the classroom windows shatter, amplifying the fears and suspicions of the class and the townspeople at large that she is a witch.

On a drive home, Ethan nearly runs over Lena, whose car has broken down. He gives her a ride home and the two bond over their shared love of poetry and having both lost their mothers. Ethan drops Lena off but later finds a locket and returns to the mansion to give it to her as a present. The touch of a locket triggers a shared flashback to the American Civil War, after which Ethan awakens at his home. Macon disapproves of their love and fondness of each other, and conspires with Ethan’s family friend, Amma, to keep the two separated. However, Ethan continues to pursue Lena until she confesses that she and her family are “casters,” who are capable of performing a variety of magical spells such as changing the weather and casting illusions. On her 16th birthday, Lena’s true nature will steer her towards either the light or the dark; Lena fears the latter, as it entails being consumed by evil and hurting those she loves. Ethan insists she is responsible for her own choices and reassures her that she is a good person.

Matters are complicated by the arrival of two immensely powerful dark casters who aim to push Lena to the dark: Ridley, Lena’s provocative cousin/childhood friend, and Sarafine, Lena’s mother, who has possessed Mrs. Lincoln, the mother of Ethan’s friend Link. Sarafine foresees that Lena will become an even more powerful caster and intends for Lena to use her newfound power to purge the Earth of humans, leaving casters to rule in their wake. Lena and Ethan use the locket to re-experience the whole flashback, which reveals their ancestors, caster Genevieve Duchannes and mortal Confederate soldier Ethan Carter Wate were in love. Ethan Carter was shot in battle and Genevieve revived him using a forbidden spell that caused her to go dark and curse all the Duchannes family’s women. They consult with Amma, who is in a seer/keeper of a caster library beneath the town library. The most ancient of these books, the Book of Moons, reveals the secret to undoing the curse: one of Lena’s loved ones has to die. Unwilling to take Ethan’s life, Lena has a final moment together with Ethan in which Lena makes it snow and makes lightning that burns the town’s welcome sign, then erases his memories of their time together.

Ridley seduces Link and gives him a bullet to use in an upcoming Civil War reenactment of the Battle of Honey Hill which will take place on Lena’s birthday. During the reenactment, Link and Ethan agree to “kill” each other so they can ditch the reenactment. While at the ceremony for her 16th birthday, Lena feels the shock of the curse being broken and runs off to Ethan, clutching his dying body as Ridley and Sarafine encourage her to surrender to grief and accept the dark. Lena lashes out in anger, sending lightning strikes through the crowd of reenactors until Ethan transforms into Macon, who had previously disguised himself as Ethan to become the needed sacrifice. His dying words encourage Lena to “claim yourself”; she then causes the moon to disappear so it cannot claim her for the dark. Lena allows Ridley to flee and pulls Sarafine from Mrs. Lincoln’s body, using her power to seal Sarafine’s spirit away.

Months later, a still-amnesiac Ethan stops by the library to visit Amma before leaving for a college campus tour with Link. He apologizes to Lena for not having got to know her during their time in Gatlin. Lena is then seen in the caster library, where it is revealed that she has claimed herself as a half dark/light caster. Meanwhile, just after Link drives past the town line, Ethan sees the burnt sign and recalls their memories together. He gets out of the car to call Lena’s name. Lena hears and the movie ends

REVIEW:

With the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises ending, studios realized that there is an open market to get tween girls in the theaters with another series of books…at least until The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released in November. Enter Beautiful Creatures, a film based on the popular young adult novels by Kami Garcia. Will the film version do the books justice, or be forgotten the way so many other film adaptations seem to be.

What is this about?

Based on the best-selling novel, this supernatural drama focuses on the romance between teenager Ethan and Lena, the enigmatic new girl in his Southern town. As they get to know each other, they discover sinister secrets about their families.

What did I like?

True. No, this isn’t a true story…at least as far as we all know it isn’t. Rather, it is true to the title. This cast is full to the brim of beautiful creatures, some more than others. I can’t imagine anyone will complain about seeing a “vamped up, city woman” (to quote “Tennessee” Ernie Ford) of Emmy Rossum or the very pretty lead, Alice Englert. Girls will no doubt swoon over the male lead or, perhaps, they have a thing for Jeremy Irons. Who knows?

Visuals. To say that this is not a visually stunning picture would do it an injustice. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, the visual effects aren’t overdone. As a matter of fact, they are the icing on the cake. When one uses magic, it is to be expected that there is some sort of visual there, especially in regards to dark magic, and that is what we see here. Brilliant tactic by the filmmakers.

Role reversal. In most films of this nature, it is the guy who is the brooding supernatural and the girl who is lovestruck. However, in a case of role reversal, we get to see a guy that is lovestruck with a brooding girl from the supernatural world. I found that the age old story seemed to work better this way, but that could be because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from a certain series of books/films involving “vampires” and “werewolves”.

What didn’t I like?

Accents. We start with narration from the main character, Ethan. Now, this is set in a small town in South Carolina that is set in their ways. As you can expect, we have some rather thick southern accents that will make the characters in Gone with the Wind sound like they are the true northerners some of them were. The accents wouldn’t be a problem, except for two things. The first is that they are really bad! I mean, True Blood had the monopoly on horrible accents, but they almost sound authentic compared to these folks. Second, after a while they slip out of said accents, and for no good reason. Jeremy Irons is the biggest culprit of that crime.

Something else. For everything this film did right, in terms of changing up what we’ve seen so much of in the past, it missed the mark by not giving us a story that we could really sink our teeth into. I realize that I am not the target demographic for this film, but would it have been too much to ask for something more than the eternal love and sacrifice schlock we’ve been shoved ad nauseum. If they were going to insist of shoving that down our throats, the least they could have done was have the decency to turn this into a romantic comedy.

Character development. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if this is the fault of the filmmakers or just bad writing on the part of the author, but it seemed like the only characters that got any kind of development were our two leads, with a little bit from Sarafine, Macon, and Ridley. They must have noticed this, too, because out of nowhere, they decide to start giving us a bit of insight into Viola Davis’ character, but it is too little, too late. By the time the film ends, you find yourself not really giving a damn about most of these people, mainly because you don’t know who they are.

If Beautiful Creatures is to have a chance at becoming the new tween girl must-see franchise, it is going to have to be better than this. Then again, this is leaps and bounds above that franchise that will no longer be mentioned on this blog. I hear that if you have read the book, it is best to stay away, however, for those of us that haven’t read them, this isn’t a bad supernatural romance flick. That being said, it isn’t that good, either. In the end, this is just an average film that is for a certain audience, of which I am not part of. Check it out at your own peril.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars

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