As a fan of the 2009 novel I was initially disconcerted about this entire movie. So many of the book’s fundamental traits had been either drastically altered, or in some cases removed entirely. No more “Sixteen Moons”, no Marion Ashcroft, and no winter formal (that last one is a surprise, seeing as how it’s a teen angst goldmine). I spent the majority of the 124 minutes scrambling to find anything that translated well onto screen, and trying to justify the creative direction that director Richard LaGravenese had taken, but looking back after a second viewing, I can see this film for what it is.
It’s not a faithful adaption by any stretch of the imagination. The initial meeting between Ethan and Lena is rushed, not a slow realization of a bond that the two of them share; the hostility of the Gaitlin community is reduced to a few religious zealots and a few snide remarks here and there; so many characters have been forgotten about, the most important of which are Marion Ashcroft, who is almost a driving force in the book itself, and Ethan’s father, who is only ever mentioned by name; and the dark curse becomes this vague idea of Lena turning into a sluttier version of her former self.
Removed from the source material, Beautiful Creatures holds up a little better. I read elsewhere that it acts as more of a homage to the novel, and less as a faithful adaption, which is probably the best way to describe it to anyone heading into it with unrealistic expectations. After all, it is a pretty dense story, not every detail is going to work on screen. Some aspects did work in their own right; I enjoyed the atmospheric nature of the southern mentality, and the artistic directions taken with Ridley’s seduction of Link.
The performances of the cast members are solid as well, the two leads showing more personality in 10 frames than Stewart and Pattinson did in 5 years. The supporting players each brought something special as well; Emma Thompson hams it up like crazy, Jeremy Irons brings Macon to life in an almost uncanny way and Viola Davis is just a great as she’s ever been, even if she’s seen the least. But, it’s Emmy Rossum who steals the limelight as Lena’s vamped out cousin Ridley who, minus the lollipops and blonde hair, is just as fun as her paper counterpart. It’s just a shame that her best moment in the novel is removed and replaced with something a little different in the movie, but I think she’s still as strong a character here as she could have been.
For all its flaws, I’d still love to see where the film could go from here. I’m not all that certain it’ll get the chance, but there is potential. So if you’re a fan of the series, don’t go into this expecting to see the book you loved play out in front of you. You’re still going to like it for what it is, but as a film adaption, it’s quite fluid. For casual viewers, I think there’s still something here, though it might take a little leniency and an open-mind to find it.
3 out of 5 Book o' Moons
Previously posted at PandaTV.