Film Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (2013) (PG 13), based on the novel Beautiful Creatures (2009) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl; my review of the book.

The Plot: Ethan is having strange dreams featuring a girl whose face he cannot quite see, beneath her swirling brown hair. When he sees new-girl Lena at school, he is attracted to her because she’s different and because she looks just like the girl in his dreams.

Lena’s family is the one that is whispered about and talked about: rich, reclusive, odd — and Ethan is about to find out there is truth to some of those rumors.

The one about being witches, for example. Or, as Lena explains, Casters. As a female Caster, on her sixteenth birthday she’ll come of age and be either of the light or of the dark. The number on her hand isn’t a tattoo, it’s a count down to that birthday.

Ethan, then, hasn’t met just any Caster: he’s met someone on the brink of knowing whether she’s going to be light or dark. Their relationship and growing love just complicates matters; as does a curse going back generations, that seems to condemn Lena to the dark.

Can Lena and Ethan find a way to beat destiny and allow Lena a choice in what happens to her? And can their love survive it?

The Good: The problem I had with writing up the plot synopsis was all the back-story and information I had to include: Casters, the light and dark, their love. I almost edited to add the “Southern” part but then decided not to, to show just how hard it was to include everything in a short plot of the movie. I point this out because, in a way, the movie faced the same challenge I did: how to include all the information and world-building from the book, in one movie, and have it make sense to people who hadn’t read the books.

Beautiful Creatures seamlessly shares all that information, naturally, while the movie unfolds: we learn about Lena as Ethan does, and, also, learns some things he doesn’t, when the action shifts to Macon and others.

I read the book over three years ago; and it was just long enough ago that I had forgotten details and could just sit back and enjoy the movie as the movie-version of the story. So, yes, there are scenes and even characters that are missing, but guess what? To make the movie-version of the story make sense (and be a movie, not a twenty-hour miniseries) those changes has to happen.

What I enjoyed: Lena and Ethan’s growing relationship; Macon (I mean, Jeremy Irons. JEREMY IRONS); the way Ethan kept finding out about things he didn’t know about, such as the Casters, secret underground passages, and other supernatural happenings around town; Amma, a family friend who has her own secrets; and the settings! From Macon’s house to Ethan’s home to the secret Caster library, I just fell in love with all the details, whether it was Macon’s floating staircase or Ethan’s map of places he wants to go based on books he loves.

I saw this with a twelve year old and a ten year old. Both loved it; the twelve year old’s favorite part? All of Lena’s powers. The ten year old’s favorite part? What happened when Ethan and his best friend were Civil War reenactors. And we are all looking forward to the next film! And me, now I’m inspired to reread the first two volumes of the series and read the last two volumes.

Other Reviews: School Library Journal; New York Times; Los Angeles Times.




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