Film Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Beautiful Creatures is the latest young adult series to get the big screen treatment, this time they are witches (excuse me, Casters), and it fails to work as a teen romance or an interesting fantasy film.

The story follows a pair of high school students, Ethan and Lena, who fall in love in a small South Carolina town, one of whom is a witch that is soon to be claimed by either the light or dark on her 16th birthday. We get a lot of posturing by a couple of local witches in the community, our heroine’s uncle for light and a long thought lost force inhabiting the body of a local housewife for dark, and neither figure into the plot very much at all. As Lena’s birthday grows closer, both sides show up in support of their respective factions, all culminating in a completely anti-climactic set up for a sequel.

World building in the film is so exposition heavy and done with such little grace that you can’t help but cringe every time they fold in another layer to the mythology. Speaking of layers, who would have known that such a huge and thriving supernatural world existed underneath this rural southern town; there is literally a giant series of interconnected tunnels that lead all over the east coast based right underneath this town. Add in the fact that there are seers and other powerful folk running around town as well and it all gets ridiculous in quite a hurry. A show like True Blood is able to get away with this because it doesn’t take itself all that seriously, this film, on the other hand, does so entirely.

The world building is obviously essential to the success of any fantasy story like this, but the rest of the film doesn’t help it out much either. Visually the film is a dud and contains itself to a few locations that aren’t all that interesting outside the inside of our caster’s house. It seems like the budget went mostly into the design and execution of that set and in turn they seemed to only able to afford Emma Thompson on a scene by scene basis. The awkward appearances by her only further enunciate the rather broken nature of the storytelling that just blatantly drops plot point after plot point before watching a character read a book for most of the film’s second half. The film’s conclusion is so laughable on top of that it just baffles this viewer and the twists aren’t earned at all, they cheat on almost everyone. Not only is it underwhelming and minor, but the destruction that has occurred seemingly wipes out half of the townspeople yet everything is A-OK in the end.

Characters come and go for plot convenience and everything about the movie feels like setting up for a future franchise. Don’t build towards a series of films when you barely have enough plot to fill one. The history of our male lead’s family is also frustratingly introduced and ignored as his father, literally, never leaves his room and never seen and the supposed mystery around his mother is also only paid lip service for potential plot in the sequel.

The chemistry/romance of the leads does work to some extent, but the film’s desire to push the destiny of this couple leaves the viewer in disbelief that they fall for each other so quickly. Both of the actors are fine enough once you get past some wonky accents and our male Alden Ehrenreich is even genuinely sweet and affable in his role. Alice Englert gets uglied up for most of the movie before her powers reveal her true beauty, but she doesn’t have a ton of charisma, is a bit meek and I never really buy her in her moments of power. The aforementioned Emma Thompson unfortunately finds herself on the wrong side of over the top and she is laughably bad every time she pops up on screen. Jeremy Irons comes out less scathed, but he doesn’t really bring a whole lot to the part either. Emmy Rossum is the only bit of life in the film, but her fleeting character only pops up briefly to set herself up for sequels and inject some sex into the picture. Viola Davis is also inconsequential in a supporting role that is laughably forced upon for the sake of the mythology.

Beautiful Creatures is more concerned about its sequels and in turn leaves a mess of a film to start off this supposed franchise instead. There’s no story, nothing interesting in the mythology they are trying to build and none of the characters are ones we can relate to. Fans looking for the next young adult franchise to grasp onto should continue to look elsewhere as the big screen continues to be devoid of any great ones since a certain wizard left the stage.

Beautiful Creatures is an F

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