Beautiful Creatures Directed by Richard LaGravenese Written by Richard LaGravenese Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson, Margo Martindale Warner Bros. Pictures Rated PG-13 | 123 Minutes Release Date: February 14, 2013
Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You), Beautiful Creatures is a supernatural romance film based on the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Young Adult Supernatural Romance is right up there with the Comic Book Superhero Origin Story as one of the most popular (and profitable) subgenres in the film industry right now.
With the success of Harry Potter, The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games, studios are snatching up YA titles left and right in hopes of producing the next big blockbuster franchise. Beautiful Creatures is the latest ‘supernatural’ (code for watered-down, unscary horror) teenage romance movie, with a story that mixes elements of Star Wars and Harry Potter with the Spanish moss and Southern accents of True Blood.
LaGravenese’s film plays like Twilight with the sexes reversed. This time it’s the boy who’s mortal. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is a bookish, shy-but-sweet high school kid in the sleepy town of Gatlin, South Carolina. When he isn’t reading Charles Bukowski or Kurt Vonnegut, Wate dreams of escaping his boring, dead-end town and going to college in New York – until he meets newcomer Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert).
Lena is essentially what would happen if Lydia from Beetlejuice hooked up with Harry Potter. She’s a caster – a witch – who possesses strange powers that make her your stereotypical goth kid. A fellow outsider, Ethan is drawn to Lena – but their romance is threatened by Lena’s yet-to-be-determined destiny.
Upon her sixteenth birthday Lena must undergo The Claiming, a process that will decide her fate forever: Light or Dark. Pulling at her from opposite ends are her Uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) and the dark mistress Sarafine (Emma Thompson), who hope to tip the balance of good and evil in their favor.
While Beautiful Creatures covers well-worn territory, it manages to be somewhat successful. Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert deliver solid performances and carry the film with their chemistry, while a terrific supporting cast that also includes Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, and Margo Martindale fleshes out the world created by Garcia and Stohl.
In comparison to another recent YA film adaptation, Warm Bodies, Beautiful Creatures focuses less on tongue-in-cheek humor and more on creating a grandiose mythology of witches and warlocks, with a touch of Anne Rice’s Southern Gothic sensibility and a dash of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. It’s not for everyone, but it’s leaps and bounds better than the comically-bad Twilight Saga and that dull, lifeless Hunger Games adaptation.
Sadly, quality doesn’t equate to success – and after a poor opening weekend ($7.4 million for the four-day weekend, $10 million if you include Valentine’s Day), it’s unlikely that Beautiful Creatures will become the blockbuster success that is Twilight. Still, it’s an entertaining slice of supernatural high school romance for those so inclined.