“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” (2013) Review

Beautiful-Creatures_2

“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” (2013) Review

In the tradition of the HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT franchises, Hollywood has embarked upon another adaptation of a fantasy tale for children and young adults. The latest adolescent fantasy is an adaptation of an adolescent fantasy called“Beautiful Creatures”

The novel, written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, was published in 2009 and is considered the first in what should prove to be a literary series called Caster Chronicles. After Summit Entertainment’s success with the TWILIGHT movie franchise and Warner Brothers’ success with the HARRY POTTER films, the latter studio released BEAUTIFUL CREATURES to the movie theaters. Both the movie and the novel told the story about a teenager named Ethan Wate, who longs to escape the boredom of his South Carolina hometown, Gatlin. However, Ethan’s boredom disappears when he meets a mysterious new girl named Lena Duchannes. Not only do Ethan and Lena uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their town and especially their history that stretches back to the Civil War; Ethan discoves that Lena and members of her family are magic practitioners – who are known in their world as “casters”.

Lena’s talent as a “caster” also serves as an obstacle to her romance with Ethan. Her Uncle Macon Ravenwood disapproves of their growing romance and conspires with Ethan’s family friend, Amma; to keep the two separated. Ethan learns that on Lena’s 16th birthday, her true nature will steer her towards a light or dark path. And Lena fears of being consumed by evil and hurting those she loves. Even worse, the arrival of two powerful dark casters from the family hope to push Lena towards evil – her provocative cousin Ridley and her mother Sarafine, who forsees Lena becoming an even more powerful caster. Only Ethan believes that that Lena can determine her moral fate, due to her own choices.

I must admit that I really had no interest in seeing “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES”. When I saw its trailer, the movie struck me as another one of those adolescent fantasies along the lines of the TWILIGHT franchise. But with nothing to do that particular weekend, I felt bored and realized that I had not experienced a first viewing of a movie since the holiday season. So, I went to see it. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I cannot say that “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” is one of the best fantasy romances I have ever seen. And it did not strike me as particularly original. But I did enjoyed it.

As I had stated earlier, “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” does not strike me as an original film. It reminded me of numerous movie and television productions in which one half of a teen romance has magical or supernatural abilities. Two, I was a little disappointed that of all the “casters” in the film, audiences never saw Ethan’s friend, Amma, display her magical abilities. The script made a big deal in building up Amma’s abilities. But in the end, it never really delivered. And three, the whole idea of a “caster” being steered to one particular moral path after a certain period of time unpleasantly reminded me of that infantile 48 Hours Window of Opportunity rule from the television series, “CHARMED”. Fortunately, “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” rose above such simple-minded nonsense by the end of the movie. Speaking of the movie’s finale, I must admit that I was not that impressed by Lena’s final confrontation with her mother, Sarafine. It almost struck me as anti-climatic and its ending left a sour taste in my mouth.

However, there were many aspects of “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” that I enjoyed very much or I found admirable. First of all, I have to compliment Philippe Rousselot’s photography of the Louisiana countryside that served as South Carolina. I found it lush, colorful and sharp. I especially enjoyed those scenes that featured the Ravenwood estate. Despite my disappointment over the movie’s ending, I still enjoyed the movie’s plot. And as I had stated earlier, I am very relieved that Garcia and Stohl’s story rose above the usual black-and-white photography by the end. There was one particular scene that really blew my mind. It centered around Lena’s attack upon her cousin Ridley at a family dinner and it involved a spinning dinner table. I really wish I could describe this scene in more details, but I suspect one would have to see it in order to understand my appreciation of it.

The cast of “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” proved to be first rate. I wish I could say something about Eileen Atkins and Margo Martindale’s performances as Lena’s grandmother and aunt. But the script did no really give them the opportunities to display their acting skills. Emmy Rossum was luckier. She really strut her stuff as the sexy and somewhat sardonic Ridley, who seemed willing to assist Sarafine’s efforts to corrupt Lena. Thomas Mann gave a rather humorous performance as Ethan’s laconic, yet witty friend, “Link”. Although her character was never given the opportunity to display any magical abilities, I must say that I really enjoyed Viola Davis’ excellent performance as Ethan’s tart-tongued and practical friend, Amma. Emma Thompson’s ability to utilize an American accent has improved in the past twenty years, especially in her duel performance as Lena’s mother Sarafine and Link’s mother, the sanctimonious Mrs. Lincoln. More importantly, she was superb as the manipulative and cold-blooded Sarafine – especially in one scene that revealed Sarafine’s possession of Mrs. Lincoln’s body. Jeremy Irons’ American accent struck me as somewhat shaky, but I certainly cannot say that about his performance as Lena’s concerned, yet controlling and slightly arrogant uncle, Macon Ravenwood. However, the movie more or less belonged to Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert as the two young lovers, Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes. One, the pair not only made a convincing pair of lovers, they had excellent screen chemistry. In fact, they complimented each other very well, thanks to Ehrenreich’s energetic performance as Ethan and Englert’s more subdued and moody portrayal of the introverted Lena.

I noticed that “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” did not turn out to be the hit that Warner Brothers had hoped it would be. I could make an attempt on analyzing the movie’s box office performance, but I find it would be irrelevant. To be honest, I really do not care one way or the other about its box office performance. Despite some flaws in the movie’s last hour, I really enjoyed“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES”. It was a surprising treat in the midst of the dismal 2013 winter movie season.

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