Published Feb 14, 2013It seems like every week now there's a new film vying to fill the yawning chasm left by the conclusion of the Twilight saga (we're looking in your direction, Warm Bodies). And now we have Beautiful Creatures, another adaptation of a series of young adult novels depicting an epic love story tinged by the supernatural. Though it may not exactly be a ringing endorsement, it must be said that it's at least more enjoyable than Twilight.
Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) returns to school after summer in the small Southern town of Gatlin to find that the new girl, Lena (Alice Englert), is the vision he's been dreaming about and sketching. She is the niece of noted recluse Macon (Jeremy Irons), ostracized from the rest of the community because of the mystery surrounding the family. As Ethan soon learns, Lena is a Caster (a more politically correct term for witch), who possesses powers, along with the rest of her relatives.
Falling in love with Lena proves to be a tricky proposition for Ethan. She is about to turn 16, at which time it will be decided whether she'll be claimed by either the Light or Dark. To make matters worse, she must contend with her dastardly mother — the shape-shifting Sarafine (Emma Thompson) — and a conniving cousin, Ridley (Emmy Rossum), who are trying to use her relationship with Ethan against her. Not to mention the fact that she's living with a curse from her ancestors, dating back to the Civil War.
Obviously there's a great deal of back-story to be conveyed and, at times, the film's momentum threatens to get bogged down by the sheer volume of exposition. This problem is alleviated somewhat by the charisma of the two leads and the talent of an overqualified supporting cast. Writer/director Richard Lagravenese is a veteran at adapting beloved books (heck, he even co-wrote the screenplay for Beloved) and here he's done an admirable job bringing both the human and fantastical to life.
It wouldn't be surprising to find that fans of the series are wholly satisfied with the film version, but neophytes will likely be a little less enthralled. It's rather overwhelming to begin to invest in a world with this many characters and origin stories, especially when they sometimes hardly seem worth the effort.
All that's left to do now is wait and see if the hordes of teenage girls (and some boys) will make this a viable franchise. (Warner)