Review : Beautiful Creatures (2013)
"Dark secrets will come to light"
Released (UK) 13th February 2013, Rated 12A. Runtime: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes).
Official Synopsis: Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.
Red Corner Review, by Lisa
Added February 16th, 2013
I have always had a bit of an affinity for the American South. I can’t quite explain what it is, but there is something about it that is so appealing to me. The fact that Beautiful Creatures is set in the Southern states complete with good old Daughters of the American Revolution and aged southern belles adds a richness, depth and partial authenticity, I would go as far as to say the South is a character in the story!
Having very recently read the book this has highly coloured my perception of the film and the way in which events are portrayed and things that were left out. I know people say you can’t compare a film to the book but, being the stickler that I am, I just cant help it! The story as it unfolds is rather rich and through detailed exploration it develops well in the book. It begins with Ethan Waite, played by 24year old Alden Ehrenreich, having strange dreams. In these dreams there is a girl with long, flowing dark hair and he begins to have strong feelings about this girl as they are being pulled away from one another. When out for a run, he finds a mysterious locket in front of the old cemetary, although during the monologue playing over the top he tells us that Gatlin is a small southern town and very little of note happens here in bible belt country – he dreams of bigger and better things. The next day when talking to his friend they discover that the the niece of town shut-in Macon Ravenswood has come to stay.
New arrival Lena Duchennes is clearly different from the outset, although Ethan also quickly realises she is the girl he has been seeing in his dreams. Lena is immediately ostracised by the lead popular girl and Ethan’s former girlfriend and he is immediately protective of her. Their friendship grows and blossoms into love and when he gives Lena the locket, it unleashes a spell and the pair find themselves witnessing events from their civil war past. Lena is troubled because her 16th birthday approaches and she finally has the courage to explain to Beau Ethan that he must stay away from her, as events will unfold in a matter of months over which she believes she will have no control. All Lena wants is to have her last remaining months as a normal teenage girl.
We discover that Lena is a natural, a witch, or castor as they prefer to be called with immense power. The events of the locket are revealed to be linked to Ethan and Lena’s fate and the existence of a curse, caused by a castors love for a mortal man. As a consequence of this all women in her line are claimed for the light or for the dark on the moon of their 16th birthday in accordance with her true nature. Lena fears hers is dark as she has trouble controlling her Furthermore Lena’s mother is revealed to be a very powerful dark castor and wants her daughter to go to the dark side and bring about a new world order with her incredible power. Her uncle Macon wants her to choose her own destiny and choose the light.
The final sequence plays out in the backdrop to a civil war re-enactment complete with southern belle hooped dresses and parasols! oh my! I think Emma Thompson and Emily Rossum are great playing against type as dark castors and Jeremy Irons does well in his role as eccentric uncle with an edge of danger, Macon Ravenwood. I would have liked to see a bit more of Ama as she was one of my favourite characters in the book and she is played perfectly by Viola Davis . However I would have preferred if they left Macon as an incubus who feeds on dreams like in the book. He also needed just a touch more malice and mystery I thought. The ending of the book is fast paced and a tad confusing and the film does a good job of sifting out the main events and setting the ending out in an easy to understand way.
Initially I felt disappointed with the changes from the book including Amma, the old aunts, Ethan’s dad, and getting rid of Librarian and Castor history custodian and Ethan’s mum’s friend Marian. When I discussed the differences with the book with the blue corner he said he thought the director had made some good decisions based on what I described (he hasn’t read it) in order to tell the story better. It was certainly important to capture certain scenes, and though I felt that the civil war flashbacks were done rather badly, the storm scenes, the finale and the dinner table face off were all done rather well and made a visual impact. I was also glad to see an appropriate gothic twinge to the costumes and cinematography, though I was disappointed at Lena not dressing more “alternative” like she does in the book, and equally so that the significance of her hodge podge necklace was not explained.
Upon reflection the book is quite detailed in order to set the scene and develop the characters – the film rushed the romance between Lena and Ethan a little bit and I think that could have been portrayed on screen better. Lena, played by Alice Englert was pretty much how I imagined her from the book, although sadly Ethan was not – he looks about 28! I have no idea how we are supposed to think he is a teenager. Plus, he really isn’t the best in the acting department. Lucky the Oscar-winning-supporting cast ramp up the acting talent.
Largely I think the book was a lot darker than the film, and perhaps a few things were omitted in order to garner the 12A certificate. There will undoubtedly be a lot of comparisons to Twilight and I think that would be wholly unfair. Not only has it got nothing to do with werewolves and vampires, but the original plot is better and more developed but the way it plays out on the big screen, despite the changes made makes it a much better class of film than the ‘teen supernatural romance’ tag slapped on it. In saying that there is a fairly big dose of cheese and the chemistry between the young couple doesn’t quite work, I think largely down to Ethan’s casting – too old, too boring!! Nice to see something a bit different though and will be interesting to see if they make any follow ups.