It seems like vampires are out and witches are in this year. Beautiful Creatures tells an enchanting love story with intriguing characters, and marrying gorgeous backdrops with slick effects.
Beautiful Creatures is based on the young-adult best-selling novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The film adaptation stars Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert alongside Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis.
The Gothic tale is set in a superstitious South Carolina. Handsome young Ethan (Ehrenreich), is a restless teen desperate to escape his small, conservative home town, who becomes bewitched with a young sorceress called Lena (Englert). She is not only a witch, but the niece of the reclusive Macon Ravenwood (played with gusto by Jeremy Irons), owner of a forbidding, yet enchanting manor house.
Ethan soon learns Lena is no ordinary girl. Despite her sarcastic attitude towards him, Ethan tries desperately to get close to her; he soon gains her trust, next her friendship and then her heart. After discovering she is a witch, he learns that Lena will soon be ‘claimed’ by a magical force against her will to either become a good or a bad witch. But their love is jeopardised since love between witches and mortals goes against all the rules.
Beautiful Creatures comes with a built-in audience which means it could well become the same lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon that Twilight did. With its supernatural love story, it shares many of the same themes, which is great if you’re a Twi-hard, but not so good if close ups of doe-eyed supernatural creatures aren’t your cup of tea.
The lovers in Beautiful Creatures share some similarities with Bella and Edward’s cutesy relationship in Twilight. Their love story is just as saccharine-rich as Bella and Edward’s; they too sit in lush meadows, gaze into each other’s eyes, and share a kiss under the falling snow.
Alice Englert is excellent as sarky Lena who’s got Kristen Stewart’s scowling eyes and unimpressed looks down to a tee. She’s the sort of young witch who’ll conjures up a rain cloud over her boyfriend’s head when she gets angry – something that is actually pulled off with a fair amount of humour.
Another standout performance comes from Emma Thompson. Although she usually plays ‘the nice one’, her character in Beautiful Creatures couldn’t be more different. Here Thompson is a dark, dangerous, somewhat seductive character. In a fitted corset dress and ringlet curls, years have been knocked off the Love Actually actress. A true transformation.
South Carolina’s lush countryside is certainly made the most of, the couple spend much of their time wafting through the state’s enchanting forests and meandering through country lanes together. Everything has been beautifully and atmospherically photographed by Philippe Rousselot to give an alluring and magical ambience which enhances Ethan and Lena’s candied romance.
And it’s not just natural beauty we’re spoilt with, but stunning graphics and slick effects really brings the magic to life. One magic-infused scene in particular is enough to make you dizzy: a heated argument between Lena and her cousin (who’s been claimed to the dark side) over a peaceful family dinner turns into a disaster which literally spins out of control. The witches make the dining table whirl round so fast it creates a mini-tornado, and provided you don’t suffer from motion sickness, it’s a stunning and clever episode.
It is clear in Beautiful Creatures that director Richard LaGravenese loves cloying romance scenes. But the P.S. I Love You and Water for Elephants director has also managed to elegantly include supernatural elements with the romance story. As well as the cutesy moments, LaGravenese does justice to the Gothic element of the story with period costumes, dark make-up and spooky graveyard scenery.
Beautiful Creatures might be a bit of a Marmite movie – Twi-hards should certainly love it, while everyone else may find it hard to see beyond the supernatural romance. If you can forget the similarities to Twilight, it is a fun and charming love story, which uses effects well, and is sufficiently light-hearted to make you smile and leave you feeling uplifted.
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