Beautiful Creatures: Movie Review

BeautifulCreaturesMoviePoster1Since the end of  Harry Potter and Twilight movies, studios have been scrambling to find literary materials that would appeal to hordes of teenage fans obsessed with young adult book sagas, but not all have been successful. Case in point is Logan Lerman’s Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, which was supposedly the first in a series of five books (The studio has given the green light for book 2 despite book 1’s less than stellar output).  Suzanne Collins’ dystopian novel The Hunger Games seemed to have tapped the market, with the first movie raking in millions of dollars in revenue. But still, the competition remains fierce and Alcon Entertainment’s adaptation of Beautiful Creatures, authored by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl seemed like another attempt to replicate the success of other book to movie franchises.

Ethan Wate has been having weird dreams of a mysterious girl for several months already, and in each one, something bad always happens. This is the closest to excitement that he has experienced as his regular life in the small town in Gatlin, is anything but. When the niece of town recluse Macon Ravenwood arrives, Ethan is immediately drawn to her and for good reason. She is the girl he has been slowly falling in love with for months and it would seem that their destinies are intertwined.

When I read the first book of the saga, I thought that setting the novel in the South was kind of refreshing because of its connection to the rich history of the United States. Combining history with modern day Casters, with light trying to banish the dark and a Caster/Mortal romance caught in between was also a fresh new take on the Romeo and Juliet theme. Translated into film, I am not quite sure if it worked.

For one, producers did not pick a heartthrob with Robert Pattinson-like looks to play the main character. Rather, they opted for newcomer Alden Ehrenreich to play the lead opposite Alice Englert’s Lena Duchannes. The chemistry between the two stars was unmistakable, making their scenes the true highlight of the movie. To a certain degree, Ehrenreich’s strategy of playing Ethan as a rather goofy charmer instead of the book’s more intense character worked well for movie viewers as they were able to relate to him more and enjoy his performance. The problem was it took away from the general sense of urgency that should surround the film, especially since danger was supposed to be imminent the whole time.

The film was also too slow and too wordy. There was too much dialogue explaining the backgrounds of the Casters, the history of the curse, etcetera, etcetera — the result of failing to establish early on the relationships of the characters to one another. The change in the sequencing made sense, but I think the main problem was basically in presenting the events in the story. I think the key sequences did not make as much an impact as it should because they were simplified and shortened to make room for yet another Ethan-Lena makeout scene.  The fact that the soundtrack was not as cool as Twilight, and that Lena was only 15 years old at the time, did not help their cause any. Such a shame because there were plenty of opportunities for the movie to come out with original music based on the book.

Come to think of it, there were plenty of opportunities missed with the elimination of many parts of the book. Boo Radley, Macon’s dog was nowhere to be found, and his reports would have made for a much less boring town hall meeting. I was also not a big fan of combining the character of Amma, who was supposed to be the Wates’ housekeeper, and Marian Ashcroft, the town librarian in the book. The problem was the two characters were very different, and the portrayal for any one of them did not quite hit the mark. I did not think Viola Davis, no matter how critically acclaimed her performance in The Help was, did any justice to any of the two characters in this particular movie. She did not pop out, she did not deliver. She was just there, looking grim for 95 percent of her exposure. I wasn’t quite sure if she was underplaying her role because of the audience but whatever she did, it did not work. Veteran actress Emma Thompson was another disappointment. She was annoying, as what Mrs. Lincoln should be but her attempts to be as sinister as Seraphine fell as flat as a pancake. Jeremy Irons was the only veteran to pull in his weight.

The ending can serve well as a closer to the series should the producers decide not to pursue the saga, but can also double as a cliffhanger for the next one. All in all, its not perfect but a passable romance fantasy adaptation. But it could have been better. It could have been so much better.

For my review of the book, click here.