‘Beautiful Creatures’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:41 am,

Beautiful Creatures Alice Englert Beautiful Creatures Review

Despite routine references to crazy powers and an epic light versus dark struggle, Beautiful Creatures is a bland film experience that is surprisingly devoid of actual movie magic.

Beautiful Creatures, from director Richard LaGravenese (Freedom Writers), is the latest project attempting to conjure box office success in the highly-profitable supernatural romance genre. The source material story of the same name is part one of four installments in the Caster Chronicles (followed by Beautiful DarknessBeautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption) – a young adult book series from co-authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl about magical beings known as “Casters” locked in a struggle between light and dark.

At first glance, some viewers will no doubt dismiss Beautiful Creatures as Twilight with witches but just because a film includes supernatural elements and a romantic subplot doesn’t outright mean that it can’t deliver an entertaining moviegoing experience for fans outside of its core audience. Does LaGravenese present a movie with enough slick effects, intriguing characters, and worthwhile drama to expand the appeal of Beautiful Creatures to casual viewers – not just supernatural romance lovers?

Unfortunately, no. Beautiful Creatures is a choppy and melodramatic experience with very little payoff beyond the central love story. Worse yet, overlooking the usual on-the-nose dialogue about eternal love and sacrifice, this tale of star-crossed sweethearts is especially cheesy and unconvincing – even when compared to similarly heavy-handed young adult novel-turned-movies. Fans of the supernatural romance sub-genre will get about what they expect – a boy meets witch story with a few cool “Caster” variations along with scene after scene of teenagers ruminating about eternal love, duality, and Kurt Vonnegut. For that reason, Beautiful Creatures is serviceable but most moviegoers will find the film to be an overlong progression of disconnected scenes, weighed down with thick exposition and schmaltzy performances from its leads.

Beautiful Creatures Alice Englert Jeremy Irons Alden Ehrenreich Emmy Rossum Beautiful Creatures Review

Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Alden Ehrenreich, and Emmy Rossum in ‘Beautiful Creatures’

The core Beautiful Creatures plot, along with the larger “Caster Chronicles,” centers around Ethan Lawson Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a high school junior who falls for new girl, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), in the small-town community of Gatlin, South Carolina. A withdrawn and mysterious girl, Lena eventually reveals to Ethan that she is a “Caster” – a magical being who, on her sixteenth birthday, will be “claimed” as a force for light or dark. On one side, Lena’s uncle, Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) advocates for the light while her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson), tempts Lena with the power of the dark side (for lack of a better phrase). As the days count down until Lena’s birthday and subsequent “Claiming,” Ethan must help her confront dark urges as well as uncover a long-buried connection between Casters and his own family – if he wants to keep his new-found love from going dark.

Like many young adult novel adaptations, it’s clear that a lot of the more interesting ideas in the source material were left on the page – to make way for a straightforward movie storyline. The Caster mythology is shallow (and extremely convoluted), relying on exposition-heavy platitudes about light and dark instead of educating viewers with captivating onscreen examples. The story follows an extremely standard point A to point B to point C progression and offers very few surprises. Many of the intended “twists” are telegraphed so far in advance that the film becomes a waiting game instead of an immersive drama. Most narrative elements are underdeveloped, shelving interesting plot details to make room for more scenes of Ethan and Lena discussing their mutual devotion and affection.

The amount of time spent with the leads in doe-eyed close up is especially problematic since they share very little actual chemistry. Instead, this “forbidden” love affair relies heavily on Ehrenreich smirking drunkenly while giggling through one cheesy line after another – as if he can’t believe how lucky he is to be caught in a life-threatening battle for love at age sixteen. Similarly, Englert delivers a serviceable riff on the withdrawn outsider character trope but, aside from all the talk of “destiny,” it’s unclear what actually draws the two lovers together. Despite speaking lines about love and pressing their lips together once in awhile, there’s little spark selling the intimacy to anyone outside the frame. Instead, the romance is thin and cliche, clumsily reconstituting familiar love story beats  – without genuine emotional payoff. It’s a reckless misstep – especially considering the amount of time dedicated to the core love story plot.

Beautiful Creatures Emma Thompson Beautiful Creatures Review

Emma Thompson as Sarafine in ‘Beautiful Creatures’

Side characters are similarly “talked up” through exposition without rewarding drama. It’s implied that Macon Ravenwood and Sarafine are two of the most powerful Casters around but neither of them are ever let off the leash to cause captivating (or at the very least visually striking) heroism/mayhem. Instead, Beautiful Creatures expects audiences to use their imagination not their eyes – because the legend of Macon and Sarafine is a lot more intriguing than what ultimately appears in the movie. It’s a genuine shame, given that the characters are played by Irons and Thompson, respectively – an accomplished pair of Academy Award winners. Oscar-nominee and celebrated actress, Viola Davis (The Help) is equally wasted in the film as Amma, the town librarian and a friend to Ethan’s family.

Even if viewers can accept anticlimactic storytelling, stilted lead performances, and an on-the-nose but unconvincing love story, Beautiful Creatures is also saddled with countless distracting and superficial references to movies, books, and pop culture. Allowed to develop over 500 pages of prose, intended thematic connections (To Kill A Mockingbird) and satirical gags (misspelled theater marquees) are less heavy-handed on a book page but onscreen the references come in rapid succession without offering profound insight or memorable laughs. No doubt one or two of the references land but the ones that don’t undercut and outright disrupt key moments of character drama in the film – an unjustifiable tradeoff.

Beautiful Creatures is a flawed but harmless entry for supernatural romance fans or readers who are excited to see the Caster Chronicles adapted to the big screen. Yet, the film does absolutely nothing to draw outsiders in – and misses numerous opportunities to present an intriguing world for less familiar viewers. Instead, the goofy performances, overwhelming exposition, and dull love story do not translate into captivating movie drama. Despite routine references to crazy powers and an epic light versus dark struggle, Beautiful Creatures is a bland film experience that is surprisingly devoid of actual movie magic.

If you’re still on the fence about Beautiful Creatures, check out the trailer below:

[poll id=”534″]

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Beautiful Creatures runs 124 minutes and is rated PG-13: for violence, scary images and some sexual material. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. i am also the revolutionizer and allan as in allan meyerhoff
    hey hey hey !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I have read the book and saw the movie last night. Extremely disappointed in how different the movie was. Many key characters and critical plot developments were changed or removed. I think it could have still been a descent movie, not too long, and kept true to the book. The ending and the claiming scenes were horrible. I doubt they would be able to make the other movies. I just don’t get why you would take an already sellable book and make it into a not sellable movie. I’m going to finish reading the last two of the casters chronicles (beautiful chaos and beautiful redemption) but I doubt I will go see any more of the movies if they are made. Wish the book could have truly come alive in the movie, but it’s too late for that.

    • I agree 100%. I read the book a few months ago, and saw the movie last night with my wife, who hasn’t read the book.

      We thought the acting was great (except Viola Davis as Amma). We really liked Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan. He did a monumental job trying to hold together a story that Hollywood managed to twist just enough to make it crappy. The story had a lot of inconsistencies. I thought if they would have left well enough alone, and followed the book plot, it could have been a great movie.
      I rated it 3 stars. Low because of the plot changes, but high because of the great acting (minus Davis.)
      My wife gave it 3 stars because there wasn’t enough magic, but was also very please with the majority of the acting.

      (I also noticed the ‘conservative smashing’ that Hollywood decided to add to the dialog, that wasn’t in the book. It would be nice if they could keep their politics out of everything they touch. I almost rated it lower just for that.)

      • I have to agree with everything you said except Viola Davis! I think she did a good job but her story wasnt explored enough!

    • I read all the books and I almost walked out of the movie! I was extremely disappointed. They did not get almost anything right. They left out full characters. How are they going to continue the series without those characters. I refuse to see the other movies now because I was so upset. I cannot believe they ruined a FANTASTIC book like beautiful creatures. If I was the author I would be so upset.

  3. I felt I was being generous with a two star rating for the movie, after giving the book four stars. Richard LaGravenese has directed and wrote several good books to movies, but he really missed the spot on this one. I admired his work in Freedom Writers and Water for Elephants. Maybe the magical genre is not his cup of tea, but I’m surprised the original authors of the book, Garcia and Stohl, didn’t have more of an influence on the direction of the movie. The combining of characters was wrong from the beginning, as well as not allowing Boo’s unspoken character in the movie. With today’s animatronics and puppetry, he could have easily been brought to life. He even changed Larkin to be a Light Caster instead of a Dark. The ending and what led to it – between Ethan and Lena – was so disappointing. I was so utterly disappointed after the first few minutes of the movie, I had to order a drink. The only way I foresee the continuation of the series is if there is a different writer/director team, but even then I don’t know how you can salvage the character corruption.

  4. The movie was okay. I liked the story. It’s the best story I’ve ever read. I liked all the characters. Great job! Im looking forward for the next episode of this movie and I hope it would be the best movie than twilight.

    • You haven’t read the book, have you?

    • You obviously did not read the book.

  5. As soon as I saw the trailer a while ago, I knew this movie would stink. I read the book, and based on the trailer, I knew it missed a lot of the important things that were in the book. But, I went to see it anyway, and I was scoffing at almost every scene. The characters were wrong, the plot was wrong, and everything was a waste of time and money. :(

  6. I was really disappointed with the movie because the book itself had such a strong plot and it pulled you in so quickly that when you finished the book you found yourself reading the next one and by the 3rd day you had finished the series, the movie didn’t do it the least bit justice.. Let’s forget the acting and talk about the plot which was wrong from the beginning, I loved how it was set out in the book how everything came together and it didn’t seem forced or out of place and you understood everything whilst in the moving it was disconnected and I found myself wondering where did have the book go? Not only do they cut off Marian, but they take out Boo and change the plot completely that I think they only took the base of the book and made a new movie out of it, I read this book on the idea that it would make an amazing movie and I was actually excited for it and now i hope they don’t make another one, unless they re-create Beautiful Creatures and do it right this time.

  7. I just got home from watching the movie! I personally thought it was an outrage! I read the series and loved it! But they totally disfigured the plot! Not only were there missing characters, but the whole plot was wrong! From 20 minutes into the movie I noticed so many things that were changed or undermined. The characters Boo Radley (Dog) and Marian (librarian) were not in the movie. They play some pretty big parts in the rest of the series! Also Larkin was a dark caster in the book and a light caster in the movie. The ending was completely changed, it didn’t resemble the book in any way! The characters were moving at such a fast pace I was confused! The days were not distinguished so I didn’t know which day was which! The love in the movie seemed forced and they didn’t capture any of the magic like they could have! I rated the movie 2 stars only because of the acting which was decent! I would only watch the next movie if the whole movie was remade!

  8. I liked beautiful creatures it was better than Twilight movies people don’t know what good stories are anymore. this was a good love story I’ve read two books going on my third loved these books. hope they make the second movie.I’ll be hoping they make it my sister and son liked it. crossing my fingers they make the second one.

  9. I thought the books were wonderful and I couldn’t wait to see the movie. I was so disappointed, it was nothing like the book.. They changed so much and it was horrible. It really let me down. It could of been an amazing movie. It doesn’t do the book any justice. People are going to watch the movie and are never going to want to read the books now! I don’t know how they would pull off a second one with the way they ended it.

    • I agree!!!

  10. I read the book and THIS is not the book. I attempted to watch it and was not impressed at all. Skip it or grab a bootleg if you must see it.

  11. I though beautiful creatures was dam amazing. Beautifully done. Everyone was a great pick. I’ve read the books and yes they did change in up a bit in the movie but the movie was great and I hope they make the 2nd book beatiful darkness and all the rest of the books. And remereber we were luckily enough to have the book made into a movie. I know myself as a writer it is my dream to have one of my many stories made into a movie.

    • I’m an author too but this movie was a disappointment. I would be humiliated if this were my book. They left out key characters and important moments in the plot. Utter disappointment.

  12. The books were so much better than the movie. The movie was absolutely horribly. I almost wanted to walk out of the theater.

  13. This movie was NOTHING like the book. ALL the key elements that made the book a page turner were removed and/or not emphasized. I would not recommend this movie to anyone who read the books and loved them. I have to watch it again to decide if it was even good at all, seperating it from the book. Ethan and Ridley (ignoring the fact that she was missing here lolipops and blonde and pink hair) were the only roles that were executed cclosest to the book. Everyone else (even Lena and especially Amma) were a complete disappointment.

  14. This movie was awful. My sister has wanted to see it so I told her not to buy a copy, she can have mine. I haven’t read the books so I can’t comment on the content of the movie following the books. But I can comment that I thought the acting was bad, seemed a bit cheesy at times and confusing. The magic wasn’t even that good. I am though going to read the books.

  15. I read the book first and expected a wonderful movie out of it. So excited I ordered it on paperview for six dollars and thought to myself, “this movies gonna be great six bucks is worth it!” But I was so wrong. They missed the important elements of the movie! The first part is good until Ridley shows up. She looks nothing like the authors described her and her budding romance with Link showed only very little. Ethan’s father never showed especially at the end when he most needed to be. Ethan’s aunts, “the sisters” never showed. They were important aspects of the movie. But the things that got to me most were the missing if important characters like Marian. Ethan’s moms best friend. She was supposed to be the librarian. Not Amma. Also another thing. Kelting was never mentioned and Genevieve wasn’t at her grave post. This movie was a total disappointment. The director was stupid and didn’t know how to write the movie like the book. At TE end I was confused. Parts that I never heard in the book were showing up and the librarian thing will throw off the next two movies because Marian is a prime character in those. This movie was poorly directed and didn’t fit the standards readers wanted to see. An utter disappointment should be on the front cover of the movie. It recieves zero stars from me.

      • I meant Kami Gacia this movie got me all screwed up

  16. This movie is horrible it is not true to the books at all. No shadowing song, no Marion, no real love story. It was really bad

  17. I love the book,but the movie doesn’t do the book any justice. They leave out way too many things and they also change lots of things in the movie. Not happy at all with the movie.

  18. I hope they remake the series and stay true to the story.

  19. I personally loved the book and was extremely excited when I got the chance to watch the movie but now I wish I hadn’t ever wasted my time. The constant inconsistencies between the book and the movie, from the poor choice of characters to the inability to explain the actual story (or at least more of it). I rated the movie a 1 because it was a huge disappointment.

  20. I hated this movie. I absolutely love the books, and I hate how the movie producers messed it up. If they had stuck to the books, they might have been successful.

  21. As someone who did NOT read the books, and thus brought an unjaundiced eye to the film, I can say I thought this was a GREAT movie. I loved almost everything about it, but especially the leads. I thought their scripts were extremely well-written and executed flawlessly. I saw none of the “cheesiness” or “stiltedness” mistakenly attributed to these characters in the above review. Both Alden and Alice were relaxed, natural, witty, and refreshingly offbeat. A tall order for such young actors, but they delivered expertly. And having support from the likes of Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson further elevated and solidified their performances and the efficacy of the film as a whole. With outstanding performances, an absorbing storyline, a compelling genre, and an inspirational, love-conquers-all ending, I don’t see how anyone (who was not first jaded by the books) could find Beautiful Creatures anything but an outstanding achievement.

  22. I’ve been reading the book, and although i have not finished it, wanted to see the movie.
    Well, it was completely terrible, and i am really glad i fell asleep halfway through it. The movie kept skipping important points that were in the book, it was choppy and all over the place. And of course, they cut some characters too. This is the worst book to movie conversion ever.
    It sucked right from the first 5 minutes. Book though was fantastic, cant wait to finish this and read the others.

  23. The movie should be remade and follow more of the story line. How can you even continue the movies now. Not gonna lie, I love the movie, if I don’t relate it to the books

    • Agreed! I loved the books and loved the movie separately. They changed way too many things. I truly believe the screenwriters and producers did not read the whole story before filming.

  24. I just wanted to say that the worst thing they did was make amma the librarian they left out one of the most important characters who is in all the books who just so happens to be my favorite character, stupid decisions everywhere.

  25. The movie didn’t really stand a chance coming out when it did. Hard core Twilight fans were still dealing with it being over and fans were too excited to have Hunger Games coming along. They just weren’t ready for another supernatural romantic story. Probably once Hunger Games is over for good, they should try again or at least sell the movie rights for TV special or Netflix original that way actual Beautiful Creatures fans can get their fix on the movies.