Film Review: Beautiful Creatures
If you need to read nothing else about this movie, at least know this:
It’s not Twilight.
Yes, it’s obvious Twilight hangover, but do you really think they’d allow anything like that shit to happen again?
TL;DR The romance is typical, way-too-fast-to-be-believable teenage crap. But the witchy shit is pretty cool. Also, thank fuck it’s not Twilight. 3 out of 5 stars.
Did I mention it’s better than Twilight?
So the plot isn’t very complicated. Ethan is a small town boy who dreams of getting away from his boring life. Lena is a new girl in town who belongs to a family of witches. Young love ensues. Something something something Lena has evil family members who want her to join them in evilness. A curse on female witches in Lena’s family means she doesn’t get to actually decide whether she wants to become light or dark: destiny will choose when she turns 16. Rude. Shit eventually goes down, Lena becomes both light and dark, Ethan survives, (almost) everyone lives. Yay.
I went into this with pretty low expectations. I had heard rumblings of some decent reviews, but it’s still a post-Twilight paranormal romance cash-in. I was actually surprised with how breezy and fun this was. Especially compared to how brain-scrapingly melodramatic Twilight is.
But it’s still kind of a piece of shit.
My main problem is the bullshit, cop-out ending. The whole movie is about Lena’s apprehension about whether she’ll turn good or evil at The Claiming (yeah, they have jargon). Then the story completely pusses out and is like “Nah, she can be both. Because it’d be too simple just to make a choice.” What the fuck, movie? At least Twilight stuck to Bella’s vampirisation.
Oh, and Lena decides to erase Ethan’s memories of her to protect him (one of the stipulations for ending the curse is that Lena’s “loved one” must die. It turns out that this could mean any loved one, and Jeremy takes the fall, but I digress). This all works well and Beautiful Creatures is about to close out with our lovers separated, which would be something fucking original, but then backpedals and makes Ethan remember everything for no good reason.
Dramatic cut to black!
Why I hate this movie:
Seriously. The 3rd act is actually really good. They drop most of the heavy romance shit so they can hammer the magic stuff, and it’s really good. Then all this indecisive, “we want to have everything both ways” stuff swoops in to ruin the day. Beautiful creatures almost had a mature, meaningful ending, but instead we got Breaking Dawn: Part 2’s “trollol, everything interesting that just happened is now completely invalidated so we can have a happy ending.” Frustrating.
Not all of the witchy elements are good, though. The spinning dinner table scene is laughable. And a lot of the magic manifests itself as needless CGI bullshit. Lena’s showing of the illusion in her room is a good example.
Speaking of that scene, Ethan seems pretty down with the idea of Lena being fucking real-ass witch. He barely flinches at the thought. What?
I’m not from Small Town, America, but I found it pretty hard to believe that any town in 2013 could be as puritanically insane as Gatlin. The town legit tries to expel Lena from school because they believe she’s responsible for shattering the classroom windows. Which, unless they honestly believe in witchcraft (which would also be bizarre for a modern populace), is totally absurd. Would any small town Americans help me out here?
Ridley was sadly underused. She’s hot, mean and powerful. She’s perfect to me.
Kyle Gallner, who always gets my Veronica Mars nostalgia boner tingling, is only in, like, 2 scenes.
It’s over 2 hours long. Unnecessary.
The title is overblown. “Beautiful Creatures?” Really?
All the witches who attend Lena’s Claiming are dressed like FREAKS. I get, you know, they’re witches. But come on. It’s almost as bad the Capitol citizens in The Hunger Games. It’s just distracting.
The witches prefer to be called “Casters.” Because our witches are different, dammit.
Oh, and for reals, Ethan and Lena’s relationship develops way too fast. It’s embarrassing.
Reasons to watch:
Although, I think it’d be fair to argue that Beautiful Creatures has a decent level of self-awareness. Nothing really gets taken too seriously (it’s breezy, remember?). So the speed and ease of Lena and Ethan’s relationship is probably the movie knowing what the genre expects and simply delivering it. They gotta get points for that.
I expected myself to complain about the whole Civil War aspect being covered superficially, but I’m not going to. Beautiful Creatures is already overstuffed at 2+ hours long. And although the backwards-ness of the town, religious fanaticism and marginalisation of the only black character (played by an underused Viola Davis) do kinda beg for some sort of exploration of Civil War themes, I’m glad they didn’t. The movie simply delivers on what it has to.
Equally, the outright exclusion of these elements (considering the Southern setting) would have been more noticeable. They kept it clean and efficient. That’s fine with me.
Ridley is a boss bitch-ho. She doesn’t put her powers to much good use, but she added a needed spice. Her terrified flip-flop once her plan is foiled during the climax is hilarious, too. And she is allowed to live. Sequel!
Emma Thompson gets to have some fun as Lena’s whacked out, evil-ass mother Sarafine (who is inhabiting a mortal’s body). Both as the publicly rabid Christian her disguise requires of her, and the crazy bitch-witch she is inside. Delicious.
Lena defeats her by extracting her true form from the body and turning her into a tangle of roots (witches have a thing for roots, yo). A friend (yes, I have them. Stop being so surprised) of mine after we saw it made a fantastic call, which I am hereby claiming as my own: “She’d be a good root.” Would non-Aussies get that? Here you go.
Jeremy Irons gets to be a good guy for once. Huh.
Oh, and points to Lena for sacrificing her own love/happiness for the greater good. Sure, she gets to have Ethan with that last minute remembrance, but she was willing to let him go. A heroine I can respect.
It’s too long, trapped by its genre, and the ending is infuriating. But the leads are rational and likeable, the villains are sassy and fabú, and it’s refreshingly light. Paranormal romance that isn’t melodramatic? Worth it. 3 out of 5 stars.