McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
by Garon Cockrell
Movie Review: A Bewitching Beautiful Creatures
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By Garon Cockrell
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Feb. 15, 2013 12:01 a.m.

I had no expectations going into Beautiful Creatures. I had known of the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which the film is adapted from, solely due to going to now extinct Borders and asking "hey, my roommate's daughter really likes Twilight, but she's read those books like five times now, what's similar?" The very knowledgeable "booktista" led me to a wall of teen fantasy novels and picked up a very nice looking cover labeled Beautiful Creatures. Reading the synopsis then, I thought it was perfect!
That's a cool cover, right?
Like the book, the movie, Beautiful Creatures, is a coming of age story that revolves around Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) who is feeling displaced in space and time in middle of nowhere Gatlin County, about to start his senior year in high school. After just losing his mother to a car accident and his father to bed-ridden grief, he doesn't really care about anything except leaving Gatlin, that is until he meets Lena Duchannes, an outsider and supposed witch or the preferable label, "caster" (Alice Englert), and everything changes for Ethan. Entering the supernatural world of the Duchannes' family, led by Lena's uncle, the patriarchal enigmatic and dangerous Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), Ethan braves unknown forces and dangers to be with Lena, who on her 16th birthday will either be claimed by the light or darkness, a family curse that only their love can break.
It contained everything I needed to fulfill her tweenie heart:
  • Supernatural teen trying to deny true nature. Brooding regularly. Check.
  • Regular teen obsessing over supernatural teen. Looking confused regularly. Check.
  • A star-crossed love between the two. Repressed sexual urges. Everyone warning the regular teen to stay away from supernatural teen for their safety and well-being. Check, check.
  • At least you don't have to worry about me biting you, huh?
    Uh, what's wrong with that?
    The pop culture zeitgeist dictates that we focus on vampires, zombies, and ghosts. I thought, "are witches even cool still?" I mean, we had The Craft, Practical Magic, the CW show Charmed, and a smattering of witches in the Harry Potter series, yet we also had Season of the Witch, the low-rated and quickly cancelled Eastwick, and to a lesser extent, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which all seemed to have been received poorly. And, I haven't gotten the memo on witches, but if any film were to change that, I believe Richard LaGravanese's written and directed Beautiful Creatures is the one to do it.
    This is acting, Kristen.
    Comparing the film to the Twilight films puts Beautiful Creatures in a bad light, because for every vacant stare from Edward Cullen, you have a soulful quip from Ethan Wate. That's exactly what this movie does right, it's not an empty vessel of boring characters or themes. There is a lot more going on with this story than the trailer or synopsis suggests. From the get-go, when Ethan first mentions Kurt Vonnegut's protagonist from "Slaughterhouse-Five," Billy Pilgrim, you know that this isn't going to be completely devoid of intelligence. The fact that the main characters actually read literature and poetry show that these aren't just dumb individuals in lovey-dovey infatuation. They have goals besides being each others' be all, end all worlds, a major gripe I had with the Twilight movies. The supernatural aspect is just the platform instead of the show. This is why Beautiful Creatures isn't only a fun film, but one that makes you care. By the time Ethan cries out Lena before the credits roll, you will find it hard to keep yourself seated and contained.
    This is also due to the strength of the lead actors, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, who carry the film better than the more established Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart ever did with the Twilight films. With little to no major credits to their names, they sell us their love and we buy it, because it's ORGANIC, and organic is just better. That's how the love story develops: organically, not forced. It contains everything that love comes with, the frustration, the insecurity, the jealousy, and the passion, and their chemistry evokes enough pathos from the material that you really stop caring about all that witchcraft crap and want to cherish the scenes of the two just being teens like it was a bad episode of Degrassi.
    Pound it, guys....come on, don't leave me hanging...
    In addition to the main leads, Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson chalk it up with their characters. They are having a blast and you can tell with their performances. By all means, these are not challenging roles for the two veteran actors, but they levitate the lines, seething with supercilious and spurious intent, yet keeping it from ever getting silly. Viola Davis definitely gives the most understated performance in the movie, but it is heavy, giving weight to all her scenes with any of the characters.
    Even Emma Thompson would've been a better Venom than Topher Grace.
    While the film did seem long, the payoff is that the characters are better developed and I think writer/director Richard LaGravanese knew the trade-off. He would rather have some tender moments in his script that really didn't push the story forward than only scenes that served the plot. If that's horrible screenwriting, then maybe they should revisit The Hunger Games and see what happens when you remove substance for structure, keeping only the skeleton of the story and removing the vital organs.
    In the end, the film is not perfect, definitely having some unnecessary cheesy lines to explain to the audience what just happened or a strange soft focus on a lot of the close ups (or maybe I'm just going blind), but it's definitely better than the multitudes of films targeting the pre-teen and teen demographic. The good thing is that if this film doesn't do great at the box office and this is the only one made of the four-book series, then it's not a loss because the film stands as a whole, instead of part of a whole, that will probably just continue to tell same stories over and over to milk the money teat of moviegoers.
    I heard the 1st Captain Underpants book is being adapted into a trilogy.
    Let this one cast a spell on you and spend the $14 to see it at the theater.

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