It’s more than fair to compare BEAUTIFUL CREATURES to the Twilight Saga since it’s essentially a gender reversed rehash of the basic story, with slightly more intrigue. But unlike the first Twilight film, where Summit was searching behind couch cushions to find funds for the production, Warner Bros. decided to do this right. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is a shiny, glossy film and it’s clear that WB put in the time and money to do the famed young adult novel justice. I have to commend Warner Bros. for their efforts since one of my biggest complaints about the Twilight films is that they look like something a kid films in his backyard. But a fancy production doesn’t matter when your plot is played out and audiences no longer care about supernatural teenagers in love.
The film takes place in a tiny town in South Carolina, where we meet Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a teenage boy that dreams of leaving his small town and making something of himself some day. But it’s clear from the beginning that something is off and the mystery of the town starts to open up when Lena (Alice Englert) shows up. Lena is a mysterious teenager that we later learn is a caster (their fancy word for “witch”). In this world, female casters are claimed by either the light or dark “side” on their 16th birthday, which is coming up for Lena. Various forces try to push Lena to one side or the other, but it’s her eventual love for Ethan that ends up deciding her fate.
You can’t go into a film based on a young adult novel these days and not expect plenty of teenage angst. BEAUTIFUL CREAURES is filled with it and at times, it proves to be the film’s undoing. Everything is dramatic and over the top and if you don’t agree with the character’s feelings of the situation, you’re going to be groaning throughout the film. The acting is another cause for concern as Alden Ehrenreich seems perfect to lead a teen CW drama, but feels a little out of place on the big screen. His faux Southern accent grates on your nerves and it doesn’t help that he’s also the narrator. Alice Englert is only slightly better, but in her case it’s more due to what she was saying and not how she was saying it.
But even if we had some rewrites and some recasting, we still wouldn’t be solving all of the problems. The story is laser focused on the love story between Lena and Ethan, so other characters get swept under the rug. Lena’s uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) supposedly was dark, but turned light in order to help Lena. That’s a pretty interesting note to a supporting character but it was barely mentioned in an afterthought. Lena’s mother is the darkest caster out there, so evil that she doesn’t even have a permanent human body, but we never learn anything about her. And finally, there’s Lena’s cousin Ridley, played by the extremely beautiful and talented Emmy Rossum. She was an interesting character as well since she supposedly was a good girl and then was claimed by the dark and now she’s an outcast. But again, we get to know next to nothing about her or any other character because we have to have more scenes of Lena and Ethan professing their love for each other.
The postmortem assessment of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is pretty simple; it featured a familiar story with bland characters. I’m sure WB wanted this to be the next Twilight phenomenon, but the story felt too much like a straight to video knockoff, even if the production quality was top notch. I think we all know this isn’t the end of the young adult adaptations, but maybe studios will calm down on the teenage, angsty romance stories.
Video: BEAUTIFUL CREATURES isn’t the most consistent Blu-ray from Warner, but it somewhat efficiently handles the varying dark colors.
Audio: The audio is also efficient, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to shine. Surprisingly, this is a dialogue heavy film.
Behind the scenes featurettes (24:03): The back cover lists these six featurettes separately to make you think there’s more than there really is. But basically these are just mini featurettes that cover the film at a very high level, but none of them are long enough to go very deep.
Deleted scenes (7:58): Maybe if you’re a fan of the books, you’ll appreciate these extra scenes, but for me, it’s clear why these were left out.