Beautiful Creatures

Not a lot can be said about the young adult fantasy market anymore, not since Twilight came along and ripped away most of its goodwill. Now any new entrant is seen as a blatant rip-off, or dirty cash-in on the run-away success that franchise had. In some cases, those suggesting that would be 100% right, probably in most cases come to think of it, but what’s becoming standard is to cast every last one away before they’re given a fair shot. Who’s to say that the next boy meets girl saga isn’t going to turn into something else entirely? Beautiful Creatures owes a lot of the attention it’s getting to these kinds of associations, but whether or not it deserves to be seen as more than it appears to be, is relative.

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.

3 comments:

J.D. Balthazar said...

I liked it, but I think they made a couple of fundamental mistakes. I won't spoil anyone, but despite the solid acting and writing for the leads, Macon, Ridley,Amma, and Mrs. Lincoln the rest of the characters were pretty much set dressing.

They didn't establish the rules of their magic well enough to create a logical narrative structure. I mean we didn't know exactly what the casters were doing, so their actions didn't have the appropriate weight.

Lastly they didn't establish menace for the villain, who as far as I could tell didn't do anything that horrible.

Those issues kind of made the ending fall flat, which is disappointing because it there was a lot to like.

I haven't read the book, so I can't base my opinion on that connection. Still I totally agree that the main couple had more charisma and personality in one exchange than Bella and Edward did throughout the entire Twilight Saga.

Great review Panda!!!

CrazyCris said...

Damn! I wish I had read this 2 days ago!!! I've been seeing interesting mentions of the movie for the past week, and since it doesn't come out in Spain for another month I figured I'd check out the book first (since I've also seen good reviews of it). Now you've made me wish I'd waited to read the book until after the movie! :o(

No Marion?! Damn!!! I really liked her character!!!

But I'm not stopping reading now... it's quite a page turner! Oh well, I'll try to abstract myself from the source material when I go see it. Perhaps the fact that it will be dubbed will help for once. :p

I'll come back and comment again once I've seen the movie. ;o)

Matthew L said...

I haven't read the book, just like with Twilight, I didn't know it was based on a book series when I went to see it.

As a movie by itself, I agree with J.D.'s sentiments, I never got a sense of exactly the way magic worked in this "universe". The main thing I got out of the movie was that it was another tragic star-crossed love story with magic/witchcraft as the backdrop.

Reading synopses of the book series didn't help either as the storyline I got from them seemed even more confusing and complicated.

The movie and book series has an interesting premise, but it wasn't for me in the execution I saw on the screen.

I think Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was more enjoyable. And Warm Bodies was definitely a much better movie than Beautiful Creatures. I love Warm Bodies, the inner monologue of R in the movie cracks me up. :D