Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Beautiful CreaturesHaving dreamed about a mysterious girl for weeks, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) arrives at school one day to discover that she is not in fact a figment of his imagination but new arrival Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Denounced as a devil worshiper by the town’s catholic contingent (led by Emma Thompson’s Mrs. Lincoln) on account of her relation to local recluse Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), Lena is in fact a young “caster” approaching her 16th birthday — an occasion at which she will be claimed either by the light or — as was the case with her mother and cousin (Emmy Rossum) — the dark.

Following the release of both Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings, cinemas were inundated with fast-tracked imitators hoping to cash-in on their predecessors’ respective successes. With The Twilight Saga now mercifully complete, it seems as though the same is happening once more, with several studios vying for a slice of the “supernatural romance” tween market. Unexpectedly, Beautiful Creatures — itself an adaptation of a young adult series with a built-in audience and franchise potential — is more than a mere Twilight knock off; if only just. For twenty minutes or so, it is actually pretty good.

Before the voice-overs can wear thin and the effects budget can run dry, writer-director Richard LaGravenese manages to endear and entertain with what is a solid and surprisingly spiky first act. By empowering his heroine, casting two reasonably capable actors in leading roles and painting his leads as actual teenagers with hopes, dreams and desires, he immediately distances his film from the sparkly vampires and coy glances that came before. Lena is smart and sassy, ready to cut through the cheesier moments with a sharp (if not always successful) one liner; Ethan is boyish and optimistic, a disposition that is tested unexpectedly in what is arguably the film’s stand-out scene.

In an early exchange with Lena and her father, Ethan is asked what sort of  life he sees for himself in the future. Unaware that he is under Macon’s spell, Ethan (who really wants nothing more than to escape Gatlin and write his own destiny) predicts a far darker and more cynical life for himself, one in which he drops out of school, cheats on his childhood sweetheart and eventually ends up taking his own life. It is an uncomfortable sequence, one that jars with much of  the rest of the movie and. It is this inconsistency, however, that sets Beautiful Creatures apart from its peers.

And inconsistent really is the only word that can adequately describe the movie, for there is still much to be maligned in LaGravenese’s latest. Lena and Ethan aside, there isn’t a single character of interest in Beautiful Creatures. The supporting cast vary from forgettable to downright embarrassing, particularly as thesps Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson struggle not only with the cliche-ridden dialogue but the unattractive South Carolinian accents they are expected to speak it in. When the Ravenwoods raise their grievances and show off their powers at a family gathering, the performances are almost as poor as the simply diabolical special effects.

Where the film really falters is in its message, which for most of the film’s running time seems to be a rather harmless lesson on just being yourself. It is later revealed, however, that a female caster is powerless to control her own self, and is instead destined to be claimed as good or evil by uncontrollable influences. Ethan isn’t the most active agent either, spending large swathes of the movie either unconscious, incapacitated or watching Lena read. With budgetary constraints ruling out actual set pieces, much more needed to be done to draw drama from the various relationships. Even the scenes shot on location look fake.

But while Beautiful Creatures may be largely rubbish — there really is no getting away from the fact that it’s cheap, messy and uninspired — it is inconsistent enough to occasionally spark to life and raise the odd inquisitive eyebrow. After a respectable start, you may even find yourself being disappointed by the film — a not altogether unwelcome surprise for a film that looked this dreadful to begin with.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Beautiful Creatures (2013)

  1. Pingback: Just Glasgow with it | Finding A Neish

  2. Pingback: February 2013 – Snitches end up in ditches! | popcornaddict

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