I’ve always been rather critical of films adapted by young adult novels. But, I have chosen to go into these movies more open minded, attempting to give them a shot. Beautiful Creatures ended up taking that chance and delivering a horrible movie.
The plot is normal fare for a young adult book. The girl is the most powerful castor of all time, and her choice of light and dark magic is going to be a big deal. Not that original, but let’s work with it. The rest of the movie shows how her being in a relationship is going to turn her to the dark side. This is where the movie trips, falls, and refuses to get back up. Beautiful Creatures does the same things that any number of young adult movies have done before. There are a few plot holes that inevitably hurt the movie. The charm that Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) finds has some power over him and Lena (Alice Englert), but it’s never explained. The “curse” that is talked about the entire film isn’t explained, leaving the audience to wonder how difficult it was to actually break.
We are at a point in young adult novel adaptations that studios need to start finding new ways to approach the original source. It’s clear the “woe as me, feel terrible for me” angle for the lead just isn’t working. Why can’t we have a lead, boy or girl, who is proactive in their hardships? If they don’t like what is happening too them, they take charge and work on changing it. It would make for much more interesting characters.
The most alarming part of the script is the lack of development for Lena. Beautiful Creatures is all about Lena and her transformation, but the script focuses entirely on Ethan. He gets some great development, and is a well rounded character. The audience feels like they know him by the end of the movie. Lena gets no plot development whatsoever. The writers knew their audience (teens), and hoped the scenario alone would make them care for her. Thing is, I wanted to care for her. The audience knows Ethan so well, we want things to go good for him. And that includes Lena. The supporting characters are walking cliches and cardboard cutouts. The southern idiots are written well, but it’s hard to tell if that was on purpose or not.
The little CGI used in Beautiful Creatures is a little hard on the eyes. It’s clear the actors were acting against nothing, trying their best to figure out what the director Richard LaGravenese, was telling them to do.
The star studded cast is a mixed bag. Alden Ehrenreich oozes charisma as Ethan. The audience can’t help but like him. It helps that he has an old movie star look to him. Alice Englert does her best with the script. There is a real chemistry between her and Ehrenreich, which should have been given more time to blossom. When they aren’t being shoehorned into cliched plot points, they start to spark on the screen. But forcing them to break up or fight for no reason puts a sizzle to that. Jeremy Irons is having a ball as Lena’s uncle Macon. His voice is Morgan Freeman like in the way the audience will listen to anything he says. He’s the only one where the southern accent sounds good. Emmy Rossum is good as sex appeal. I’d elaborate, but she’s in the movie for about ten minutes and every scene she is in has a shot down her dress. Emma Thompson doesn’t seem to know what to do in every scene. Her wild antics seem out of place in an otherwise serious movie.
The misogyny in Beautiful Creatures is astounding. Not as bad as Twilight, but up there. Girls can’t chose which side they are on, as their personality will choose for them. It happens at the age of 16 (the age when most girls start dating), and it seems like most go dark. The dark castors are seduce every man in sight, usually killing them after. If the castor dates a boy around the time when they change, it’s an almost guarantee that they will be a dark castor. But at the same time, Lena seems powerful without her man around. Men on the other hand, have complete control over which side they join. In the theater I was in, the majority of the audience were teen girls. Considering that the audience for this movie was girls, you’d think it would have a better message for them.
Beautiful Creatures could have been the movie to break the bland young adult mold. But instead, the studio decided to make a bad, yet safe, movie. Fans of the genre will enjoy it, but anyone else will be checking their cell phone every five minutes.
Beautiful Creatures gets 1.5/5.
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