Going into Beautiful Creatures, many may be concerned that it’s just Twilight with magic. And based on what we’ve seen in trailers, this concern isn’t unfounded. Like Twilight, Beautiful Creatures is, at its core, a love story, but with supernatural and magical elements thrown in for good measure. Unlike Stephanie Meyer’s poorly crafted tale about a human/vampire/werewolf love triangle, this movie, based on the first in a series of books by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, is romance without the sickeningly sappy exchanges between the two young leads. Instead of that crap, we get an engaging story with superb character development and enough humor to keep even the harshest film enthusiasts at least somewhat entertained.
Ethan Wate has lived in the small, out of the way town of Gatlin his entire life. His small world changes forever when he meets Lena Duchannes, a girl who is not what she seems. The two develop an interest in each other, instantly complicating the magical tension that has run in Lena’s family for generations.
The two leads, Alden Ehrenreich(Ethan) and Alice Englert(Lena) do a great job of conveying the love shared between their characters without falling into an Edward and Bella trap. Each character is developed incredibly well in a short time, and by the time the credits roll, there is a deep connection between viewers and characters that just isn’t there in Hollywood very often. But these two aren’t even the standouts. That title is strictly reserved for Jeremy Irons, who brilliantly portrays Macon, Lena’s protective uncle. Irons has proved time and again that he is a fantastic actor, and his performance here only reinforces that. He presents Macon as a man with a cold demeanor that hides his good heart, and his character is not only the most complex, but also the most fun. Emma Thompson, who plays the film’s baddie, Sarafine, delivers the film’s only disappointing performance. Sarafine is built up to be this big, bad, evil witch, but Thompson doesn’t convince us that that is the case. We see her walk through an enchanted door and yell like a patient at the loony bin, but last time I checked, those aren’t criteria for being an all-powerful witch.
The best aspect of Beautiful Creatures is its cozy, small town feel. I’m sick of stories about the entire planet being threatened. Leave that to The Avengers. I love stories that are small but with big ideas and themes. And that’s exactly what this movie is, at least at first. The ideas the film presents suggest a story that is so much more than a generic teen love story. Throw in two memorable protagonists and a handful of strong supporting characters and you’ve got the makings of something great.
Despite the movie’s triumphs, it also has its faults. The film opens strongly, but it slowly gets more and more dull. Cliches start to pop up like zits on a teenager’s face, and by the time everything wraps up, we are left wanting a bit more. Not only is the film’s climax anti-climactic, but it is also disappointingly underwhelming.
Despite its missteps, Beautiful Creatures manages to be an entertaining, fun deviation from the stereotypical teen romance story. If there is a sequel, I hope that it smoothes out its predecessor’s rough edges.