Beautiful Creatures (2013)

beautiful-creatures-movie-posterOverview:A strange recurring dream haunts Ethan Wate in his sleep, but he prefers anything to his waking life. Trapped in a small, conservative Southern town with his withdrawn father, Ethan desperately wants to escape. Then the beautiful Lena Duchannes arrives at this school, and mysterious events begin to occur. Lena has a secret: she is a Caster with powers beyond her control. Worse, when she reaches her 16th birthday, she will be claimed by either the Light or the Dark… and there is no escaping her fate in this supernatural love story.

That’s the iTunes description of the film, the IMDB and Amazon ones stunk, but that’s pretty well done. I can’t really think of anything to add to get a clearer picture on the rest of the story.

Plot Rating: 3/5
It isn’t a bad movie. The love story is a big part of it, but it isn’t sappy and stupid like (uncomfortable shiver/grimace) Twilight, but at the same time no one forgets that there are more serious things going on in the background- namely the Claiming of Lena and a curse that is repeatedly hinted at which would, regardless of Lena’s decision, claim her for the Dark.

Lena and Ethan have a little PDA on a low-key date.

Lena and Ethan have a little PDA on a low-key date.

I took two points off because it does the same thing as The Hunger Games– it assumes you’ve read the book, to a beyond stupid degree. Now, I haven’t read “Beautiful Creatures”, so I’m guessing that the issues I have are addressed in the books, but the movie had a very “summarial” feeling (yes, I’m making up words now, it means it feels like it’s a summary) which manifests in two ways- time and lingo.

The most noticeable issue, for me, is that you really have no sense of time passing. The story feels like it takes place over a few days, but we know by Lena’s hand how much time is passing (she has a countdown clock of days until her 16th birthday, when her Claiming is). There are scenes where she’s wearing the exact same clothes, but there is a line added, a throwaway really, when we learn it’s actually 2 weeks after the last time we saw her. Another thing where the timeline is weird is… well… everywhere. I can’t think of two consecutive scenes where it didn’t bother me. It would have been an easy fix, it’s as simple as showing someone walking down a  hall and someone looking at them a couple times. Altogether it would have added maybe 2-3 minutes to the running time.

Lingo is almost as annoying as time, but it might just be me. This is where I think reading the books was expected. Lena’s family constantly refers to Ethan and other people as “mortals”, and there are some other hints that they might have some kind of longevity that normal people don’t (Lena repeatedly tells her Uncle he is thinking of the wrong century, and I couldn’t tell if that was legit, or sarcastic). I would have liked an answer to that. They say it often enough that I was really confused by the end of the film. Also, there are some pretty big Caster secrets that get revealed which seem like a big deus ex machina (our of nowhere easy fix). This is where I think they assumed we (the audience) would have read the book…

Emmy Rossum is inexplicably blond for just one scene in the whole film

Emmy Rossum is inexplicably blond for just one scene in the whole film

Oh, and I didn’t see any point to ever mentioning Ethan’s father. He never appears. They ignore his existence the rest of the film.

Acting Score: 4.5/5
I took a half-point off because Jeremy Irons, who plays Lena’s Dark-Caster-Turned-Good Uncle Macon (another thing I would have liked more explanation of) has really gotten too comfortable with his recent works (relatively non-challenging (spell check said “Unchallenging” wasn’t a word  ) compared to his previous work. He’s gotten too comfortable playing the same character and it shows. Not in every scene, just 2-3 where you can tell he’s slipping into his Borgias character, which makes his Beautiful Creatures one come across as kind of distant and vaguely confused.

Macon and Amma (Viola Davis) fight, as they tend to do, even though the characters seem to get along.

Macon and Amma (Viola Davis) fight, as they tend to do, even though the characters seem to get along.

The two leads, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert do a phenomenal job of making Lena and Ethan both believable and very 3D. The love story doesn’t feel dumbed down, over-dramaticized, or any of the other crap we’ve gotten used to because of Twilight. I was honestly very nervous about this film because I thought it might feel like that, but it actually felt very natural and real and there isn’t anything sappy or whatnot. The writer and actors did a phenomenal job with that.

Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln and the Dark Caster Seraphine was a good match, but is it any wonder? She’s a great actress and she shines, even though the writing is kind of botched and we never really get a clear answer if it’s Seraphine the whole time, or if it’s Mrs. Lincoln with the occasional possession. Oh, add that to the list of things that should have been fixed- Seraphine didn’t make any sense and I couldn’t figure out what her deal was or why you never see her in physical form.

Ridley, a brunette for 99.9% of the film, uses her Siren powers to kidnapp Ethan and bring him to a family dinner to annoy Lena.

Ridley, a brunette for 99.9% of the film, uses her Siren powers to kidnap Ethan and bring him to a family dinner to annoy Lena.

And, of course, the whole reason I gave this movie a chance: Emmy Rossum. She was phenomenal in Phantom of the Opera and has done little since (I can’t watch her show Shameless, I really don’t like William H. Macy’s character). She plays Ridley, Lena’s cousin who was “like a sister” before the family curse turned her Dark (and maybe made her a Siren, I couldn’t tell if that happened before or after the curse hit). She does a phenomenal job, but there were a lot of unanswered questions about her character that I think the books would likely have explained.

Oh, and I don’t have much to say about here character, but Viola Davis is perfection, as always.

Age Rating: 10+
I really just put it there because kids might find it kind of scary. There is some cursing, nothing too bad from what I remember, and there are some implied sex scenes, but you don’t outright see anything, mostly just making out rather enthusiastically. There is also some light murder, so… maybe I set the number too high, as always, preview the film yourself if you’re not sure if it’s alright to show to a young ‘un, because each child matures at different rates and your kid could be 10, but they still might not be ready for it, or they could be 7 and A-OK.

Fun Trivia
The director didn’t want too much green screen in the film, so in the dinner scene (you can see it in the trailer) where Lena and Ridley are having their little caster battle, the table and the actresses really did spin. They bolted everyone down for safety, then filmed the sequence over three days.

The kind of theme song for the movie “Needle and Thread” was written and performed by Alice Englert, Lena herself. The director liked it so he asked her to record it for the film.

In a rather cute scene where Ethan tries to recite a poem to impress Lena, his inability to get the lines right was actually a blooper. Alden Ehrenreich actually did other takes where he got it perfectly right, but the director preferred his stumbling.

Things That Would Have Been Nice to Know (Trivia)

Macon, in the books, is an Incubus/Vampire, in the movie he is merely a powerful Caster, WHICH WOULD HAVE EXPLAINED THE “MORTAL” COMMENTS.

All casters have a different type of basic ability (according to IMDB). “Lena is a Natural (Can control weather and elements), Ridley is a Siren (can control people), Sarafaine is a Cataclyst (an evil form of a Natural), Aunt Del is a Palimpsest (she can read time), Gramma is an Empath (she can copy someone’s powers for a short time), Genevieve is a Natural/Cataclyst, and Macon is telepathic”. WHICH WOULD HAVE EXPLAINED A HECK OF A LOT AND ANSWERED ALL THE REST OF MY QUESTIONS ABOUT CHARACTERS.

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