Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures... at least it's better than Twilight
It’s hard to talk about a movie like Beautiful Creatures without comparing it to Twilight. The ingredients are all there: teen romance, supernatural elements, and an intrusive family. It all adds up to a film that looks and sounds like Twilight, but thankfully, doesn’t act like Twilight. Calling it “Twilight with witches” seems apt, but it’s really giving that series too much credit.
Let’s be honest, most teenagers have the personality of an over-developed fetus. It’s that half-formed, clueless aspect of being a teenager that Twilight kind of got right. That’s also what makes those movies borderline-unwatchable. Real teenagers are usually pretty boring. Beautiful Creatures doesn’t star normal teenagers. Ethan and Lena are charismatic and alive. They crack jokes and seem happy, instead of neurotic and needy. In terms of the love story, Beautiful Creatures offers a traditional Hollywood romance, and for this genre of YA-novel-turned-teen-movie, that’s a relief.
Ethan is a bookish guy looking to find away out of his backwards, South Carolina town. He reads Kurt Vonnegut and Ayn Rand when the rest of the town bans books and praises the lord. He meets Lena, a girl immediately shunned because of her family pedigree, but he falls for her. She reads Bukowski and collects poetry. They’re two pretentious teens in a town full of morons. Beautiful Creatures isn’t exactly subtle, but at least the pair aren’t borderline catatonic in their affections.
Eventually, it’s revealed that Lena is a witch, or as her kind like to be called, a “caster.” It’s at the utterance of the word “caster” that things start going downhill. Like Twilight, Beautiful Creatures makes up its rules about the supernatural as it goes along. On Lena’s sixteenth birthday, she’ll either become a dark caster or a light one, except girls can’t choose and she’s cursed on top of that. Creative films have established a list of rules unique to their fiction, and done it successfully in the past. The problem here is that the delivery of all this caster nonsense is really clunky.
Lena’s extended family arrives for the special occasion, and once again, like Twilight, it seems to be about casting the pair’s forbidden romance against a group of esoteric relatives. On the bright side, the likes of Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Emmy Rossum add some theatrical fun to the mix. Each of the casters has their own plans for Lena and Ethan, pulling the strings and keeping things interesting.
At the same time, the whole greater purpose for Lena, with predestined fates and plots years in the making, really bogs down what could have simply been a fun teen romance with some supernatural drama. The magic is corny, the conflicts are nonsensical, and the “rules” for the casters are riddled with gaps in logic.
Beautiful Creatures is a lot better than Twilight because it gives teens some decent characters to latch on to. I’d watch a film about Ethan and Lena with all the rest of the plot stripped out any day. Their love story actually has some heart, and watching them court each other is both fun and funny. It’s just too bad that most of the other elements in the film serve to distract and drag things down.
If Twilight lowered the bar for romantic films, Beautiful Creatures resets it. It isn’t great by any stretch, but if young adult novel adaptations could at least build from here, we’d all be a lot better off.