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Beautiful Creatures

2013-02-21 13:54
 
Beautiful Creatures
What it's about:

Set in the small South Carolina town of Gatlin, Beautiful Creatures tells of a mysterious new girl named Lena Duchannes whose shadowy family is shunned by the locals. She meets and falls for high school classmate Ethan who finds himself inextricably drawn to Lena's dark powers, which will come to into being on her 16th birthday.

What we thought:

It's only, ONLY been 3 months since the release of the final Twilight movie and Summit Entertainment, the enterprising studio behind the culture-defining vampire saga, have already reloaded their arsenal with yet another adaptation of a series of young adult novels with a supernatural bent.

The movie, just the first of many in a franchise Summit no doubt hopes, is based on the first book in The Caster Chronicles authored by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. "Casters" are what the paranormally gifted characters in this story prefer to be called – just another fancy word for witches and sorcerers – and the main problem with Beautiful Creatures is that it doesn't fully commit to just how witchy and scorcery it wants to be.

Writer-director Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You, Water for Elephants) does a good enough effort setting up Gatlin, a stereotypically backward Southern town populated with religious crazies who revel in the insularity of their little world where no one really aspires to relevance outside the city limits.

But here we have our narrator and romantic hero Ethan who desperately wants to be rid of Gatlin once he leaves for college and we get firm proof of his independent streak because he reads authors like Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski who are, for some reason, banned from the local library.

Ethan is a likable, slightly goofy teenager whose instant pursuit of the dark-haired Lena (played by New Zealand-born newcomer Alice Englert, the daughter of The Piano director Jane Campion) is at first creepy, then sweet, and then is fast-tracked to an all-consuming love story in the vein of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen without much in between.

The early parts of the film are cut with a quick wit that brings some welcome comic relief to a story that takes way too many detours to its endgame. We are quickly introduced to the various colourful members of Lena's bewitched family; from her isolated uncle and guardian Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) to her dark siren cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum) and a few others who don't get much to do.

As Lena frets over her oncoming 16th birthday on which she will be drawn to either the light or dark spirits, her particularly dark caster mother Sarafine inhabits the body of the local firebrand zealot Mrs Lincoln (played with a delicious lunacy by Emma Thompson) and does all she can to persuade Lena to open herself up to the dark side.

There is absolutely no real suspense in Lena's coming-of-age dilemma (according to lore, she has no choice as to which side she is drawn – sadly even powerful supernatural women have it rough) because LaGravenese has already worked very hard to establish just how powerful her human boyfriend's love is. And because we've also seen this kind of thing play out before in I Am Number Four and Harry Potter and, of course, Twilight and all its other offspring to come, Beautiful Creatures' lack of inspiration for its central theme is a bit disappointing.

The supporting cast elevates Beautiful Creatures somewhat with a truly scene-chewing turn from a very energized Emma Thompson, while Viola Davis (as Ethan's spiritual godmother Amma) and Jeremy Irons bring some much-needed gravity to proceedings. And LaGravenese has lots of fun with the irony of the town's bible-thumping fervour and its inextricable connection to darker forces.

But when it all comes together, Beautiful Creatures just doesn't convince as either a supernatural thriller nor as an epic romance for the ages.

Perhaps upcoming screen adaptations of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments and Veronica Roth's Divergent books (and this year's The Hunger Games: Cathching Fire) will give the genre a much-needed boost.


Hoping to capitalise on the still-warm corpse of The Twilight Saga, Beautiful Creatures delves into the mystifying world of casters and dark forces - and fails to inspire confidence in its blockbuster franchise aspirations.

Read more on:    viola davis  |  emma thompson  |  movies  |  books
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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
Eileen 2/22/2013 8:03 AM
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You seriously only watched the film and never bothered to read the books... Yes then it will seem like a twilight copy. Do yourself a favour and start reading the books. Even TMI:City of bones will seem like a twilight rip off.
Jackie 2/22/2013 9:27 AM
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Is the girls going to be pouting throughout the whole movie?
Blackpoison 2/26/2013 7:34 AM
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Looks awesome!
Jenny 3/26/2013 3:23 PM
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Boring!
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