Beautiful Creatures,
directed by Richard Lagravenese
(Warner Bros., 2013)

One of the things I dislike about the Twilight franchise is the way it's bifurcated moviegoing. On the one hand, the juicy paranormal stuff I've always loved is now part of the mainstream. On the other hand, it's turned into a cinematic juggernaut that leaves every other young-adult paranormal film trailing in its wake. But Beautiful Creatures does redeem itself in several ways, managing to carve out its own space out of the mountainous pile of teen paranormal fiction.

Cute young jock Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), who is burning with anxiety to get out of his tiny nowhere of a hometown after his mother is killed in an accident, falls for brooding and angry young teenage witch, Lena (Alice Englert). This happens right around the time he starts having bad dreams, the star of which is the same girl who's being ostracized by the local cadre of mean girls. Of course, she and Ethan start an against-the-grain romance, right at the very moment she's informed by her supernaturally powered relatives that she will have to choose between becoming a Dark Caster or a Light Caster on her 16th birthday. Ethan, who doesn't care what anyone thinks, either the town or her protective and high-powered family, decides to help her regardless of the cost.

Certainly the story is familiar. It knows exactly what's expected of it and hits all the marks and necessary high points, all the while casting a lovely little spell of its own, on the way to being a completely decent, special effects-rich film, with some terrific cinematography thrown in for good measure.

Whereas Twilight 's plot is mostly a romance, the layered story that makes up Beautiful Creatures is more focused on mysteries, dark secrets, calamities ready to unfold at the drop of a hat, prophecies waiting to be fulfilled, evil, good, light and dark, and Civil War-era history. It's clear there's more than one factor at work, and that's what makes it a bit more intriguing.

It's also got Emma Thompson, as a delusionally self-righteous, religiously overwrought woman possessed by the spirit of Lena's deceased and insane mother, Sarafina, the most evil Dark Caster who ever lived; and Jeremy Irons, Lena's protective Dark-but-secretly-Light uncle. They lend gravitas to a film that needs help steering around the sometimes slow and cheesy plotline. Ehrenreich and Englert are sincerely invested in their roles, with believable chemistry between them. It's the start of a decent fantasy franchise with all the right elements of mystery, magic, special effects and Young Love with a Dark Twist. With good direction, it should keep right on entertaining.

review by
Mary Harvey

18 May 2013

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