There seems to be the growing idea that teens these days are only interested in dark, grisly fantasy that involves some hopeless romance between humans and the supernatural. It plays on our desire to explore the mysterious and the exotic, and it reminds us that vampires, werewolves, fairies, and now, witches, are super hot and sexy.
Except that in Beautiful Creatures, witches are not called witches. They are casters, and their existence is almost completely devoid of purpose. We are told, quite heavy-handedly, that casters are sexists. See, they are divided — for reasons unknown to me — into good casters and bad casters, and the males, once they reach the age of 16, have the ability to hop from the dark side to the good — and vice versa — as and when they please. The females, on the other hand, are bound to the fate of which their true inner self has predestined them to. So, if they are bad inside, they will irrevocably be “claimed” by the dark side on their 16th birthday, and if they are good on the inside, they will be good for the rest of their lives. They don’t have the freedom of choice like the men do. Sexist? Damn straight.
And so we meet our two lovers, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), and newcomer to the town of Gatlin, caster Lena Ravenwood (Alice Englert). Ethan is genuinely quite likable, and for the most part, I enjoyed Ehrenreich’s performance. He is easy going, fun to be around, persistent, and he’s one of those many characters who takes startling new discoveries — such as finding out your new classmate is a witch (I’m sorry, caster!) — with a shrug and a smile. Lena, too, is likable. Englert is effective in portraying her character’s inner turmoil. Her inner turmoil, though, is my major beef with this movie.
This is her predicament: Decades ago, her great great great great great great grandmother, also a caster, broke the “rules” and used her magic to revive a loved one from death. This caused her goodness to evaporate, leaving behind a cursed woman, bound to eternal badness. And so, her descendants are also cursed, and Lena must find a way to save herself from total damnation, a damnation that her evil mother, Sarafine, eagerly wants her to be a part of.
This all sounds well and good doesn’t it? But Beautiful Creatures has one major flaw (actually, it has more than one): Not once does it take us into the realm of the casters. Their “world” is mentioned in passing, but we never get to see it. We don’t know what they do in their spare time. Do they read? Knit? Play tennis? Jump rope? What do the bad casters do on a daily basis? Since they are inherently bad and are incapable of doing good, what is the purpose of their existence? To run around creating trouble for everyone else? Lena’s story is an internal struggle, but its roots lie with her entire family, in a much bigger picture. We cannot simply appreciate her conflict by watching her deal with it alone, and so we are unable to understand the broader ramifications of her plight because we essentially know nothing about her kind.
I have not read the book on which this movie is based, but from the little I know, the movie misses out many vital details, one being the telepathic communication Lena and Ethan share. Our human hero turns out to be not so human after all. Sound familiar, Sookie? They meet in their dreams before they meet in person, so one could say that their lives are fated, just like the lives of Bella, Edward, and Jacob, from Twilight, are also fated.
Is there anything good about Beautiful Creatures? Sure! Like most movies these days, its visual effects are top notch. I particularly enjoyed the Ravenwood House interior and how it continually reconfigures itself. Jeremy Irons is pretty good too. Emma Thompson might be a little hammy, but hey, she’s playing an uptight Christian and a she-devil trapped in a human’s body. Hammy’s the way to go! Other than that, the movie falls quite flat. It captured my attention for quite a while, but after Ethan inexplicably breaks a spell preventing him from approaching Lena, the rest of the movie falls into a bottomless pit of confusion, redundancies, and cliches. My attention then strayed.
Best Moment | The end credits. No kidding. They are gorgeous.
Worst Moment | The incredulous spinning dinner table, with Ethan paralyzed in his seat. What in the world is up with that?