Imagine living in a small town, where nothing ever changes and outsiders are judged (wow, sounds like my hometown). Now imagine someone new moves to town, and that person changes your entire life. This ain’t your everyday paranormal romance, kids. This is Gatlin County, South Carolina. This is Beautiful Creatures.
So the film is based on a book series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. And when I say book series, I mean Harry Potter sized tomes. It’s pretty legit. Anyway, like I said earlier, the story takes place in Gatlin County, South Carolina. Where the DAR run everything and the Civil War reenactments are the highlight of the year. Seriously. But Ethan Wate, the main character of both the books and the film, wants so much more. See, he lucked up and had a mother who instilled in him the desire to get out and live a real life. Pity she died before the events in the story take place.
Enter Lena Duchannes, a mysterious new girl in town. Normally, in the real world, the new kid would be sort of admired by everyone else. Not in Gatlin. There’s no such thing as a “new kid”. It also doesn’t help that Lena is the niece of town shut-in Macon Ravenwood. So she already has two strikes against her. Strike three? She’s a Caster.
So why is her being a Caster a big deal? Well…Caster’s are kinda like witches. Okay, they’re witches. But they hate that term. And men and women can be Casters. I’m pretty sure Macon’s dog, Boo Radley, is a Caster too. And Lena’s sixteenth birthday is fast approaching. Again, why the big deal? The Ravenwood line is cursed to be claimed for the Light or the Dark on their sixteenth birthday. And they have no say in it whatsoever. This is proven when Lena’s cousin, Ridley, is Claimed (it’s shown through a flashback). Anyway, with Lena’s birthday coming up, she doesn’t have full control of her powers. Causing her to accidentally do things, like completely destroy the windows in her English class.
Okay, so what’s the big connection between these two kids? THERE’S A HUGE FLIPPIN’ CONNECTION. Only it isn’t as expressly stated in the film. In the film, it’s just Ethan’s great-great-great-great uncle was in love with Lena’s great-great-great-great grandmother and he was shot by Union soldiers right as he was trying to save Genevieve, Lena’s ancestor. Genevieve, wracked with guilt and despair, tries to bring him back to life. In the film, he does come back to life, but Genevieve goes Dark after bringing him back and stabs him, killing him again. In the book, it’s a whole lot more complicated and tragic.
So there’s that huge connection. Ethan and Lena fall in love, as what typically happens in young adult paranormal stories. He tries to help her figure out how to break the curse that Genevieve placed on her line. But as time passes, Lena begins to lose hope. She erases Ethan’s memories of her so that, if she were to go Dark, she wouldn’t risk hurting him. *SPOILER ALERT* That doesn’t happen in the book.
Oh!! I forgot. Ethan’s best friend in the whole world, Link, is kind of a dumbass. Like, fall in love with Ridley the Dark Siren kind of dumbass. But he has the best lines in the whole damn movie. His mother, Mrs. Lincoln (it’s the South, we have very normal names down here), is a serious bitch. But she becomes even bitchier. Because really, Mrs. Lincoln is possessed by Serafine, Lena’s mother who Lena thought was dead her entire life. This is like, the biggest plot twist in the book. It’s revealed in the first forty-five minutes of the movie. But Serafine’s whole mission is to get Lena to go Dark because Lena represents a massive change in the Caster world. Pretty much the fate of the world rests on Lena’s shoulders. Most sixteen year olds only freak out about getting their license. Just dwell on that for a minute.
Okay, so it’s Lena’s birthday. She’s at a massive ball for her Claiming. Ethan and Link are taking part in the Battle for Honey Hill reenactment for history class. Link has replaced the fake bullets in his gun with a real one Ridley taught him how to make (he’s dumb and under a Siren’s spell, give the kid a break, he’s not a bad guy). The boys go to the burned down property where Genevieve lost her shit and decide to shoot each other, get the battle part over with and go get burgers or something. But since Link has a real bullet…I’ll let you do the math.
Anyway, this leads to a massive battle between Lena and Serafine. Lena essentially skips being Claimed. She’s half Light and half Dark. So…normal. Basically. But she hasn’t replaced Ethan’s memories of her. Leading to one of the saddest scenes in the whole film. Seriously, I wanted to cry with Lena. But there’s a sort of ish happy ending?
As a movie, it was pretty great. Perfect casting, too. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to hear Scar with a Southern drawl? Jeremy Irons was pretty much perf as Macon. In the trailers, I didn’t like Lena (Alice Englert) that much. But oh man, was she actually really great. And Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) was also perfect. Especially after I read the book. Like, he’s my new favorite young actor (can I really call him “young” if he’s two years older than me?).
So I like it as a film. As an adaptation…ehhhh. I mean, it was good, it got the main story right. But holy shit, they tried to cram the major elements from all four books into one film. And I guess I can sort of understand it? But not really. They left out a lot of details and characters, but I think that was due to not wanting to make a Lord of the Rings length film. THEY DIDN’T LEAVE BOO IN, OKAY?! THAT MADE ME REALLY SAD. But honestly, the dialogue was some of the best I’ve heard in a while. Even though they left out Kelting (read the book, y’all).
Beautifully shot and wonderfully written, Beautiful Creatures might not be Oscar worthy, but it’s certainly a breath of fresh air in the vampire-heavy paranormal romance world. Loved it as a film, hated it as an adaptation. I give it eight out of ten moons.