Beautiful Creatures

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Posted February 18, 2013 by in

Rating

Total Score
 
 
 
 
 

.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: teen romance
 
Director: Richard LaGravenese
 
MPAA Rating: PG-13
 
Actors: Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson,
 
Length: 124 minutes
 
Release Date: 2/15/2013
 
Studio: Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros. Entertainment
 
 
What We Thought

Worse than “Twilight.”

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article

I wonder if the creation of Beautiful Creatures went like this:…

Twilight sure made a lot of money.
Yeah…
We should write something like that!
Yeah! but it can’t be exactly the same…
What if one of them was a witch instead?
Yeah!  
And the girl will be the supernatural one…
Yeah! So we have characters, but we need a story, too…
Well, we could tell the story of Star Wars, but with Bella and Edward…
     And there you have Beautiful Creatures. Now, I’m going to give away some plot details here, but my feeling is that you can’t spoil the obvious, and what’s already been done before.  Tell me if this sounds familiar.
     Lena (Alice Englert) was told by her uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) that her mother died years earlier.  Except she’s not really dead.  Her mother is actually Seraphine (Emma Thompson)–the most powerful dark witch (excuse me, caster) ever.  On her 16th birthday, Lena will be claimed by either the light or dark side (and yes, the film uses these terms).  Macon, himself a caster, serves as a mentor to Lena and tries to keep her safe, but Seraphine wants Lena to join the dark side, and manipulates people and events in that direction.
     Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Obi Wan.
     Beautiful Creatures takes place in a galaxy far, far away…namely, South Carolina.  Lena is the new girl at school, and attracts the attention of Ethan, who just wants to get out of the small town of Gatlin.  The other girls in school taunt Lena, saying her family worships the Devil.  But Ethan is open-minded, and believes she’s the one he’s been dreaming about.
     If Beautiful Creatures has anything going for it, it’s the character of Ethan, and the film’s sense of humor.  Ethan is polite, and an avid reader of Catcher in the Rye and the like.  Ethan and Lena go see Final Destination 6 on a date, during which she has a disturbing vision of the future.  Lena screams, causing one of her peers to taunt, “I guess even Satan hates sequels.”  It’s a funny line, but it’s going to be a problem if Beautiful Darkness hits theaters.
     Beautiful Creatures is based on the first of a series of novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  As such, it allows itself significant plot holes, presumably to be filled in by sequels.  I’ve never cared for this approach, as the film itself doesn’t satisfy, with so much left unresolved and unexplained.  It’s unclear how Ethan, a “mortal” is able to overcome some kind of magical force field created by Lena’s family to protect her from him.  The way the casters call humans “mortals” is odd, given that the casters themselves can die.
     Also odd is that Ethan and Lena’s great great great grandparents were lovers, making Ethan and Lena…ewwww
     There is a subtext about the casters; Lena is tired of “hiding.”  The casters dress differently than the mortals, and engage in practices the conservative, religious locals condemn.  Among the people that the townsfolk explicitly oppose are homosexuals.  Ethan, the hero of the film (at least initially) doesn’t discriminate against Lena, so there’s a message here of tolerance.
     On a thematic level, Beautiful Creatures would be more palatable than Twilight (at least for myself), if it weren’t for its subtext of misogyny.  Lena tells Ethan that female casters have a propensity for turning to the dark side, dictated by their “female” natures, as evidenced by her evil cousin, to say nothing of her mother.  So much for a progressive story for female teens and tweens.  When is Katniss coming back?
     Much like Breaking Dawn Pt. II, the film ends in deus ex machina, absolving Lenna of the need to take responsibility and solve her own dilemma. This is fatal in a coming-of-age story, when the character needs to make a decision that defines who they are.  In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke decides for himself if he will join Darth Vader and go to the dark side or not.  In Beautiful Creatures, the decision is made for her.  Beautiful Creatures suffers from poorly imitating something far better, yet at the same time should have followed the model closer.
     Overall, Beautiful Creatures is occasionally funny, but overall bizarre, and at times, just plain bad.  It introduces new characters late in the film, fails to develop them, and lacks the coherence and simplicity of even the likes of the original Twilight.  I never thought I would compare something unfavorably to the original Twilight.  Strange days we live in.  Strange days indeed.
       Lastly, Seraphine’s plan doesn’t make much sense.  Just because you turn someone to the dark side, doesn’t mean they’re on your side, especially when you, well…

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.

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