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Beautiful Creatures (2013) - A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation

Beautiful Creatures

There is a subculture in today’s 21st century pop culture circling around all things supernatural. One of the well-known teen novels of recent years which fit into that category was Beautiful Creatures. It sparked comparisons to Stephanie Meyer books, and inevitably earned its own big-screen film adaptation. Although it does compliment its seemly title, is there anything particularly honest in the script?

Dreams of a girl he has never laid eyes on have haunted Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) for months. Graduating in his high school class, Ethan has been waiting to see his small Southern town in his rear view where nothing ever happens and everything stays the same. Then into Gatlin walks Lena Duchanmes (Alice Englert), a girl with a stigma attached to her surname and an attitude to match. 

Beautiful and mysterious, Ethan immediately befriends Lena though she fights to keep him at arm’s length, Lena too eventually feels drawn to Ethan in ways she cannot explain. Her destiny – as a caster, impending birthday and family history, including the reappearance of a cousin (Emmy Rossum), makes a relationship with Ethan impossible… or contrary to her Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) and his predictions, will they be the exception?

FILM REVIEW | Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) - A Fairytale Adventure with Nicholas Hoult

Christians are wary of letting witchcraft into their homes and as a child, aside from select Disney movies, my parents were similarly cautious. Prior to the promotional material for the impending release of Beautiful Creatures, I knew nothing about this series. The cast looked brilliant and that was the extent of my knowledge (I know, this is not unusual), yet it prompted me to look up the novel and learn more about the story. Like always, my intentions were to read the book first, yet I wasn’t able to sneak that in so instead I rented the movie and psyched myself for a bad teen romance movie with an even worse effect.  

Beautiful Creatures

Most movies battle good vs. evil and falling prey to that overview, ‘Creatures’ does offer a good perspective on the lure of temptations. Lena and her wacky family (a phrase which is taken to a whole new level after you meet this family!) are from a long line of witches – or as they prefer to be called, casters. For generations, the women Duchanmes, upon the pinnacle of their sixteenth birthday will either be “claimed” for good or evil, and right in the middle of this battle is Lena who on one hand has good on her side and evil on the other constantly trying to convince her that she cannot help but be evil because it’s in her nature. This is often a parallel that we see in Christianity – we are told that as human beings we cannot “help” but sin because it’s in our nature.

As a belief, I have dissimilar conclusions however the pinnacle of the story revolves around whether or not Lena will claim her powers for moral purposes or bad – and as a relatable moving story point, this element was well placed and timed. It kept up a good pace for the story and from what I understand of the book, the script cut out a lot of unnecessary information, something encouraging for a film adaption. By the time the climax comes about although Lena ultimately does learn that her heart and will is stronger than the “claiming,” she still takes out her anger on someone who had nothing but selfish plans in store for Lena. Some viewers may be bothered by this whereas others may not mind the poetic justice.  

Beautiful Creatures

Now it’s time to brag up the cast, one that additionally features Emma Thompson, Viola Davis and the always brilliant Eileen Atkins who is seriously fantastic and underused as Lena’s wise grandmother. Perhaps the star who shines the most is Emmy Rossum with her fantastic portrayal of good-girl-gone-bad Caster. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, it’s hard to determine who will end up being on the side of right and who will be the villain. Countering the darkness is the adorable love story between Ethan and Lena – they were so sweet and cute together without all the normal teenage angst although there is the added pressure of Lena’s destiny, and that undoubtedly offers plenty of drama of its own. On the bright side, the script has some unexpected, great moments of humor.

During the writing of this review, I have been reminded of all that I did cheer for, and reflecting on the movie has prompted me to remember that while I didn’t fall in love with it (for good reason) as I did the recent teen film Warm Bodies (a movie I watched at the same time as ‘Creatures’), this was an interesting two hours. The sets, both indoors and out, are darkly beautiful as are the costumes (particularly Lena’s dress at the end), and the southern locale adds some authentic atmosphere. Pretty though it may be, I don’t see myself re-watching Beautiful Creatures; there was too much left to interpretation, and sometimes that is more dangerous than even the most threatening conclusion.

Content: one woman is killed by having the life literally drained from her body by a caster. A caster embodies another to conceal her identity; another man is bewitched and shots another person, ultimately with the result being a death. There is some minor sexuality – we see a high school student making out twice with an older woman [he’s under a spell] and there may be a minor sexual joke or two; Ethan is put in a trance once and unable to speak. Lena’s anger unleashes her power, shattering a window and wiping out memories. There are several immodestly dressed women. Various spells or rites are recited at some point in the film. Uses of sh*t, h*ll, da*n, etc is present. The film is rated PG13.
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  1. The strong anti-Christian bias throughout is a shame, because overall I enjoyed this book/film's approach (through the eyes of a boy, for once) and it did have an excellent cast. I admit, however, that I found the adults more interesting than the teenagers -- Macon Ravenwood, for example... although I do love Ridley. I wish the entire movie had been about her!

    1. Running across a novel (no matter the genre) that favors the male presence is rare. Even Christian fiction most often tends towards the female persuasion as opposed to the male. I like it when a book seems to have a stronger male POV - or one that's both parts equal to the male and female perspective. I read a chapter in a book the other day that seems like it may trend more towards the hero's POV since the book started with him. That is even a rarity.

      LOVED the cast - they were all AWESOME. I'll definitely watch the rest of the movies if they ever make a sequel especially if the principle cast returns! ;)

    2. I suspect that's why the book got published in the first place -- it had a male point of view for once! I tend to gravitate toward male narrators more, because I'm not very emotional. But this kid totally was! So I didn't buy him in the book as a guy at all. :D

      Doubt another movie will be made -- this one was a big financial loss for the studio. :(

    3. I like both narrator voices but would like more authors to consider the male POV - or at least give him equal page time. LOL, I wouldn't like a whiny/emotional dude - or not one who is recklessly so. ;)

      You are likely right. Wish they would - just to see what came next!

    4. ... I'd tell you what happens next, but I snored my way through the second book like the first. I guess you could always look up the plot on Wikipedia and save yourself 1500+ pages. ;)

    5. Excellent idea. Who needs all that excess information!? ;)

      I set my book down for a while last night while in bed and ended up falling asleep! Weird since I am loving the novel. Hope I'll be able to finish it today. *hoping*

  2. The book was flat out boring to me and I don't even think I finished it sadly. The trailers for the film looked interesting though. I do love Emmy Rossum and since you somewhat enjoyed it, I might give it a shot. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Good to know, Renee. I've considered reading the book... (Meant too prior to seeing the movie.) Now I am not wild about reading it. When the movie ended, I was pretty ho-hum about the film and didn't care a wit but as I wrote this review, things were brought to mind and I ended up liking it better while reflecting on it - perhaps I'll even rent it again sometime.

      Let me know what you think if you decide to see it. I'd enjoy your perspective. :)

  3. I haven't read the book before but I have watched the film. I felt it was nice change to have a teen romance shown from the boy's point of view. I thought storyline was very interesting and I was impressed with the cast.

    1. That was a nice switch, Carlyn! Since the male perspective is often second to the girl, it offered a "new" angle. Though I didn't love the movie when the credits rolled, the more I've thought about it, the more I've liked it. Glad you enjoyed the movie. :)

      Yes, the cast *was* AWESOME!

  4. As always a thorough and detailed review. I've been curious about this film for awhile, but haven't yet seen it. I quickly dismissed it after seeing the trailer, thinking of the film as a replacement for Twilight. But I've been hearing some good things about it since then and it sparked more interest. Thanks for the review and the sweet comment today!

    1. Thanks for reading the review, Leah. :)

      I think probably in some sense, filmmakers did hope for this to "replace" Twilight or at least to reach its popularity. Sadly this movie flopped at the box office. It dares to be a little different (and certainly has a less annoying heroine from what I know of Twilight), but audiences didn't embrace it.

      Hope you enjoy the film if you see it. :)


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