The surprisingly good Beautiful Creatures is everything Twilight wanted to be, but never could.
Call me someone who doesn't bend to social trends, but I never understood the obsession with Twilight: poorly cast and written for 5 year-olds, Kristen Stewart mumbled, stumbled, and put us to sleep before starring in real movies like Snow White and The Huntsman. Thankfully, I never read the books, but they couldn't have been as bad as one of the most disappointing film franchises in history. Now that its sun has gratefully set, we can all now seek more intelligent fare, and Beautiful Creatures might just be the thing. A little sexy and way more fun, the movie about witches in a small town is appealing in almost every way.
The town of Gatlin, South Carolina is...well...a little backward. Content to exist under the old traditions of a post-Civil War town, its residents are a God-fearing people and look upon any change as a sign that evil could be on the march. When newcomer Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) arrives to attend her first day at the local high school, Gatlin is already onto her, including fellow student Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich). He's been racked by recurring dreams of a woman he does not know, and soon realizes it's Lena. A bookworm and the movie's narrator, Wate himself cannot wait to leave Gatlin for "anywhere 1,000 miles away from here," but Lena's appearance changes everything. The niece of wealthy shut-in Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons, The Words), Lena is approaching her 16th birthday, and their odd relationship matches the appearance of Macon's sprawling home. What Ethan doesn't realize is that both Macon and Lena are castors - witches who use magic - and that Lena's increasingly strange behavior at school is due to her inability to control the incredible power within her. in fact, Lena will soon be claimed for either Light or Dark, a decision which could lead to the destruction of mankind if she cannot discover a way to keep her evil mother Sarafine (Emma Thompson, Harry Potter series) from corrupting her. Meanwhile, Ethan's love for Lena grows until the two realize their meeting is not by chance.
Based on the mammoth 2009 book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Creatures more than satisfies as a replacement to the much-maligned Twilight, which created distinctive love/hate camps throughout its run. Creatures is more refined, able to nimbly exist in both the world of magic and the rooted reality of a small Southern town. The script by Writer/Director Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers) keeps the love story simple while encouraging the most out of its interesting and diverse cast. Irons and Thompson bring their deep resumes together in a reveal scene that's one of the best of the film, while Ehrenreich and Englert prove they won't be unknowns for long, as their chemistry and stage presence bring a Southern sizzle to things. The presence of Lena's overly-aroused evil cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum, Shameless) brings a fun twist to things, as she and Lena battle it out for Ethan over dinner. And although the ending is a little too Lord of the Rings with its big special effects-laden climax, there's still a lot to like about Creatures.
We've already seen several 2013 movies disappear from theaters like one-night stands (Promised Land), but Beautiful Creatures has the potential to last awhile, especially if the teen novel can actually reach its intended audience. With strong writing and excellent casting, Creatures is an early standout and a must-see for Valentine's Day. The best part is you won't have to drag your significant other to it, as the story has plenty for him/her to enjoy. Beautiful Creatures is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and has a runtime of 124 minutes.
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