ALICE ENGLERT ALDEN EHRENREICH VIOLA DAVIS JEREMY IRONS EMMA THOMPSON EMMY ROSSUM
If it isn’t blatantly obvious that Warner Bros has set out to cash in on the exit of the Twilight series with their own forbidden teenage love film Beautiful Creatures then you are blind. Instead of the vampires that our culture is obsessed with, they make a go at witches, or “Casters” as they call themselves here. Based on the book by Kami Garcia (who has her fingers crossed she becomes as rich as Stephenie Meyer), the most shocking thing about this film is the acclaimed actors, including Eileen Atkins, who are monstrously out of place. Newcomers Englert (daughter of director Jane Campion) and Ehrenreich (Stoker) likely will not ride the kind of wave Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson did.
Gatlin, South Carolina is a tiny little community nestled back underneath the oak trees that seems to bore the youth and entrap the mature. Ethan Wade (Ehrenreich) has just begun his junior semester when he meets Lena Duchannes (Englert), who is from an old family name of Ravenwood that the religious people of Gatlin fear. Said to have powers of witches and satin, strange things begin to happen with Lena around. Even stranger is Ethan’s attraction to the pale, dark haired girl who wants nothing to do with this boy obsessed with occupying her attention. They fall in love and he soon learns that on her 16th birthday she will either be claimed by the light or dark forces.
The X-Men films (and their comics) appealed to a young generation, misfits, outsiders, and more without overly exaggerating the point. Over and over again these characters talk about how they yearn to be normal, or be anywhere but where they are. Beautiful Creatures tries so hard to be the next big thing that its efforts embarrassingly spill over. I came out of this film actually having more appreciation for the Twilight series and how it on some degree understood the importance of combining reality with fantasy. This film leans more towards the Beatlejuice, Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton sense of reality but is ultimately lackluster in its ambition.
In one scene you have witches casting spells, in another you have the civil war and then there are all these unsupervised 15-year-olds apparently having sex. Oscar nominee Viola Davis plays a mystic called a “seer” who says, “God created all things, its only man that decided which ones are unworthy.” The film has a very clear position on what it thinks of religion, with only Davis’s character being the middle ground. Perhaps the most unacceptable element to the film is that both Englert and Ehrenerich are in their twenties playing 15-year-olds and talking about poetry, past and future lives and running off together after knowing each other a few weeks; talk about a stretch of the imagination.
Final Thought – Desperate in every sense of the word.
Grade D+ By: Dustin Chase W.
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This movie will appeal to those who like to believe that there is a bit of magic in the world and that there is such a thing as superhuman powers. Humans have held such beliefs for time immemorial, and to some, that propensity is the source of our religious beliefs. In Beautiful Creatures, members of a family in Gatlin, South Carolina, have special powers, although not always to the same degree; experience and skill are involved. Interestingly, the powers are not entirely under their control, although if they learn enough about them, they do seem to be able to influence their strength and the direction they take, whether for good or evil.
The ability to influence the weather would be one of the most coveted powers, inasmuch as in “real” life we are often at its mercy. When any one of the Casters (beings with supernatural powers) chooses to create lightning, rain, snow, and hurricane-force winds, they stir up tremendous fears and are immediately branded as evil—specifically, unChristian—by the town folk. But as pointed out by the educated, wise librarian Amma (Viola Davis), different religions are simply different aspects of the same mysteries.
Beautiful Creatures is beautifully filmed with impressive special effects (art direction by Lorin Flemming and cinematography by Philippe Rousselot). The director/screenwriter Richard LaGravenese lives up to his reputation as a writer on previous films such as Water for Elephants, The Horse Whisperer, and The Bridges of Madison County. Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan and Alice Englert as Lena, the main characters, play their roles well and are expertly backed up by Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, and Emma Thompson lending mystery and gravitas to the story.
I very much liked the message conveyed by the film about special powers’ carrying a certain amount of responsibility and self-sacrifice on their bearers, along with respect for ancient mysteries and written messages that can only be interpreted after diligent study. Grade: B