‘Beautiful Creatures’ is yet another Young Adult fantasy series turned big screen franchise. Now, before you roll your eyes and vow never to go anywhere near it on account of past trauma inflicted by the 'Twilight' series, I implore you to cast your minds back to last year when ‘The Hunger Games’ came out, bucking that trend, and actually producing a better-than-decent film. ‘Beautiful Creatures’ may not be as good as ‘The Hunger Games’, but it most certainly is not as bad as 'Twilight' - its first tick in the plus column comes from the filmmakers casting actual human beings and not cardboard facsimiles who seem to be physically unable to crack a smile (*cough* Kristen Stewart *cough*).
Set in the small southern bible-bashing town of Gatlin, the lives of the townsfolk, in particular one resident, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), get turned upside-down with the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). Lena is the niece of the town shut-in Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), whose family is believed to be involved in Satan worshipping - so out come the torches and pitchforks... metaphorically speaking, of course. Lena and Ethan become fast friends and an even faster couple despite everyone around them trying to keep them apart. It’s revealed that Lena and her family are Casters (aka witches), currently in panic mode in the weeks leading up to Lena’s 16th birthday. On that day, she will be claimed for either the light or the dark, and there are people and forces on both sides trying to sway her in their direction.
The overwrought melodrama of this teen relationship isn’t played out by the actors, but in the story itself, allowing the actors to keep their performances real and honest (in a southern kind of way). It’s nice to see a YA story of star-crossed lovers that doesn’t involve them getting together just because (à la 'Twilight'), but actually developing an organic friendship that grows to include trust and genuine affection.
Major snaps go to Alden Ehrenreich, who could charm the pants off a nun with his big, gorgeous smile and child-like giggles. He’s also cute as a button, making every girl cry out “I want one!” by the end of the film. Ehrenreich also deserves praise for being the only actor not to break accent. English born Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson struggle a little with the language while exerting a lot of energy in their over-the-top, borderline caricature roles, in a totally justified and fun way.
Major snaps go to Alden Ehrenreich, who's cute as a button.
Just a few faults here and there... Clearly a lot of content was left on the cutting room floor, with some pretty serious time and continuity jumps throughout, leaving the odd plot hole - but nothing you won't get over, or details that couldn't be filled in by picking up the book. The costume and makeup choices also leave a lot to be desired, with the designer choosing to go the cliché witch route, dressing the Ravenwood/Duchannes clan in swathes of black lace, tulle, feathers, velvet and anything purple, along with an overuse of eyeliner and dark lipsticks. There’s one scene towards the end of the film that could almost double as a Lady Gaga video.
‘Beautiful Creatures’ has great humour and a beautiful underlying message about judgment and acceptance. The two leads are fantastic and simply make each other better when on screen together. It’s a bit of teenage fun with some real guts to it.