Warner Bros. is trying to appeal to a very specific demographic with Beautiful Creatures. Writer/director Richard LaGravenese's newest motion picture targeted teenage girls when deciding to adapt the novel to the big screen. While it will inevitably be compared to The Twilight Saga for its supernatural romance, this is a very different type of movie. The love shared between the lead characters is a crucial portion of the picture, but it's also a coming-of-age film. Beautiful Creatures will surely be well-received by teenage girls, and could perhaps entertain those who are willing to have an open mind. Even though I'm not part of the picture's target audience, it kept me relatively amused.
Based on the novel by the same name, Beautiful Creatures tells the story of Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), who is a teenage boy trying to get through high school. He constantly wishes to escape his small Southern town, until he meets a mysterious new girl, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). She quickly starts getting bullied by the town, and Ethan is the only person who reaches out to become friends. The two teenagers fall in love, regardless of the fact that Lena is a caster, otherwise called a "witch." However, everything changes when they begin to uncover dark secrets about their families, their history, and the town. The past has never been so dangerous for young Ethan and Lena.
The film is told from Ethan's perspective, as he builds the setting for the audience through a voice-over narration. He introduces himself and the small town he's in, as he runs in the night. After quickly getting to know Ethan, we're introduced to Lena Duchannes. She's a quiet girl, consumed with angst and emotions. Ethan is instantly intrigued by her, and it doesn't take long for him to develop feelings for Lena. The picture follows elements found in Romeo and Juliet, as everybody tells Ethan and Lena that they can't be together. They ignore others and develop incredibly strong feelings towards each other. Beautiful Creatures feels incredibly familiar, but Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons) breathes fresh air into the story's pacing, as he delivers genuine humor that works for this supernatural romance. Unfortunately, the film begins to take its subject matter a little bit too seriously and abandons the decent comedic moments found earlier in the movie. Macon Ravenwood becomes extremely concerned for his niece and constantly tries to separate her and Ethan in order to protect her. This character could have become a much more significant character, but he ultimately turns into the conventional "father figure," which is a shame.
Beautiful Creatures switches between focusing on the romantic drama aspects and the fantasy elements. When the motion picture is telling the love story of Ethan and Lena, it follows most of the genre clichés you'd expect to see. However, audiences will still find themselves caring about these two high-schoolers. In fact, they're even charming when they discuss the literature that has been banned in the town. While our main characters are solid, as I previously mentioned regarding Macon Ravenwood, the supporting characters should have been used to a further extent. For example, Amma (Viola Davis) makes a few appearances throughout the running time, and since she's such a big part of Ethan's life, we should have gotten to know her better. Even though this film's 124-minute running time is long enough, it never feels like the viewers really get a look within these characters. LaGravenese keeps viewers at a somewhat awkward distance.
Once the plot transitions back to the more fantastic elements, it begins to become quite interesting. Since Richard LaGravenese's isn't entirely able to hook audiences with the romance, I was hoping for superior supernatural elements. While the picture has its moments, there aren't very many memorable scenes. Lena uses her abilities often, but she doesn't get much of an opportunity to use it beyond showing Ethan. There are a couple fights, but they're incredibly short. Even the final showdown between Lena and the antagonist isn't as epic as the promotions made it seem. The few amount of caster battles are enjoyable, but the small amount present feels like a tease. LaGravenese needed to push the envelope further when it comes to both the picture's romance and caster battles. What's already here isn't bad, but it should have been taken to the next level to avoid the neutral attitude this film suggests.
Richard LaGravenese does a solid job behind the camera, as he works well with the cast. Alden Ehrenreich works in the role of Ethan Wate. He's charming, but he struggles to produce an authentic southern accent. After getting used to the mediocre accent, he does a good job with the character's persona. He has excellent on-screen chemistry with Alice Englert, who plays Lena Duchannes. She is a relatively new actress on the scene, but she's believable in the role. Jeremy Irons is great as Macon Ravenwood. He's funny and convincing, even though his dialogue steadily withers until the ending. Emma Thompson is a welcome addition to the cast, as the story's antagonist. She delivers the character very well from her first scene until the credits are rolling. This is a fun cast that makes the best out of the material.
This Valentine's Day release features a lot less special effects than the trailers indicate. As previously mentioned, the film has a few short battles, but they all look great. The most visually appealing sequence occurs around a dinner table, which puts the viewer in the middle of the chaos by utilizing some solid camera work and excellent surround sound. Fortunately, the CG work is kept to a minimum, but the digital scenes present are decent. There are numerous subtle effects, but there are only a few scenes that expand to a bigger scale. The same can be said about the audio design. There are a lot of atmospheric sounds, which truly immerse the audience in this supernatural world.
Hollywood is attempting to create the new biggest franchise by adapting young-adult novels. Beautiful Creatures has a specific target audience, but that doesn't mean that nobody else should see it. Yes, the film follows the love that develops between a human and a caster, but that isn't all the movie has to offer. The supernatural aspects of the film are interesting, even though they could have been further explored. While I don't love this picture, I don't dislike it either. Beautiful Creatures has potential at its core, but it wasn't executed as it needed to be. If you're enthralled by supernatural romance, this is worth checking out, but a rental fits the bill for the rest of us.