Beautiful Creatures: DVD Review
Released by Roadshow Home Ent
Based on the Beautiful Creatures series, Alden Ehrenreich stars as Ethan Wate, a 17 year old boy who lives in Gatlin, in South Carolina, a small Bible belt conservative town where some believe Satan is among them and where others are prone to breaking out in prayer in class.
Ethan's been troubled by the same dream for months, where a young girl is waiting for him on a battlefield - but before he can get to her, he's killed.
Ethan's world is given a jolt with the arrival of 15-year-old Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert, the daughter of Jane Campion), the niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons). Mysteriously drawn to Lena, Ethan finds himself dragged into a world of witchcraft, when it transpires that Lena is a Caster (witch to us laymen) and who, on her 16th birthday, will decide if she is on the side of Light or Dark. As the Ravenwood family gathers to fight for her soul, Lena faces all manner of temptations to break the curse on the clan as well as the temptation to follow her apparently doomed relationship with Ethan.
The Beautiful Creatures movie is a supernatural romantic fantasy drama, clearly aiming to fill a void left by a certain Bella and Edward. Unfortunately, comparisons to Twilight are inevitable (as are any other films of a similar ilk) despite witchcraft being a more central part this time, rather than vampires and werewolves. It's plodding, lacking in real danger and quite flat at times, and Englert's serious brooding and worrying sullenness is in direct contrast to Ehrenreich's lighter, almost sillier touch. They make an odd mix and perhaps some of the levity of Ethan makes it a difficult ask to believe in their destiny and doomed love. Though, you could argue they just about pull it off in this first Beautiful Creatures book adaptation.
A solid supporting cast bring out a mix of Southern accents; Emmy Rossum shines as the siren who went over to the dark side, Jeremy Irons is all rasping accent as the imperious head of the Ravenwood family, and who brings a seriousness that borders on aloof at times; Emma Thompson goes completely over the top as the baddie Seraphine, who wants to claim Lena for her own - though whether you're on board with her performance depends on your view of OTT. And Viola Davis deserves some praise as the Seer Amma who imbues her role with a degree of seriousness that's welcome in amongst some of the OTT melodramatic acting of the others.
It's not a subtle film in terms of the message of a girl, coming of age and about to journey into womanhood and who must choose what path she takes - and there's certainly the occasionally clunky dialogue you'd expect from the formulaic genre (Lines such as "love is a risk for anybody" are wheeled out to hit the target demo right where they need to).
On the FX and aesthetics front, there's a nice mix of the Gothic and spooky, which recall Dark Shadows in many ways, but there's an overall feeling of indifference to this latest. An odd mix of tone, lack of real fizz don't give the love story the spike it needs and while its target demo of troubled love struck teens will lap it up, some slightly older may feel that the lighter in tone Beautiful Creatures doesn't have the magic to give the supernatural flick the edge it needs.