Beautiful Creatures manages to accomplish within one movie what the dumbass Twilight franchise couldn’t with five. It’s far from a masterpiece but when it comes to supernatural young adult romance entertainment, it does a lot better job than the dull, lifeless and groan-inducing Twilight films.
I don’t hold high hopes that Beautiful Creatures will enjoy the box-office success of the sparkling vampire franchise. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it can make its budget back. A big chunk of Twilight’s success is attributed to conservative families encouraging their young daughters to read the books and watch the movies about a subservient, clueless girl who is nothing without a bunch of all-powerful men to control her life.
With that and the cramming down of a bunch of other conservative staples such as abstinence, it became perfect fodder for moms to indoctrinate their daughters while acting like they’re going out on a fun mom-and-daughter night out. Team Edward? Team Backward, more like. (Yes, I came up with that all by myself, I’m very proud)
I wonder which conservative parent is going to encourage his or her daughter to follow the story of a young female caster (The film’s PC term for Witch) named Lena (Alice Englert), who is rebellious, thinks for herself, drives the major plot points of the story rather than conveniently taking a step back and letting the males handle the big boy business and gasp, loves reading books, banned books at that.
Adapted from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s bestselling young adult novel, screenwriter and director Richard LaGravenese creates a compelling supernatural world that takes place in the Deep South. LaGravenese’s previous directorial efforts such as Hilary Swank groaners PS I Love You and Freedom Writers do not inspire much excitement for this seemingly mid-budget quick cash grab riding on Twilight’s coattails. But this is also the guy who wrote the severely underrated Fisher King, so he deserves at least a chance.
Right off the bat, the film sets up its darkly comic tone with deep supernatural Southern Gothic brush strokes. I have a feeling this is the kind of genre blend Dark Shadows tried to be and failed. Confused teenager Alden (Ethan Wate) passes his humdrum existence in one of the most boring and most conservative Southern towns by idolizing the authors of banned books such as Kurt Vonnegut (I like this kid already) and dreaming of one day leaving the town behind him.
He meets Lena, another oddball who also happens to be part of a very secret family of casters, who include her stern uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) and her evil mother Sarafine (Emma Thompson). Lena and Alden hit it off, but Lena will be chosen by the powers that be to become either good or evil on her sixteenth birthday.
It sounds like a corny premise, I know. But the story takes enough time with this premise to turn it into an interesting study on free will. Interesting for a young adult-level story of course but that’s more than enough when the competition for a female role model is the lifeless Bella.
The special effects are as playful and as dark as the story might get, it manages to find a lot of humor. The caster battle between two cousins while a dinner table full of guests casually eats their meals is especially amusing. Heavyweights like Irons, Thompson and Viola Davis also have a lot of fun with their roles.
Beautiful Creatures might propose a threat to Twilight-loving parents with the way it promotes freethinking, questioning authority and the importance of imagination and all that nasty stuff but hey, no burgeoning young adult franchise is perfect.