Twitter Plot Summary: A love story between a witch approaching her 16th birthday and some high school kid.
Five Point Summary:
1. Typical YA love story. Ugh.
2. Some spinning tables.
3. Emma Thompson: underused.
4. Nothing. Is. Happening.
5. Did you expect a different ending? Hah.
Treading the same path as numerous attempts at nailing the young adult market, Beautiful Creatures is a standard young adult plot where a pair of young lovers are forced to contend with the machinations of her overbearing family and his family’s dark past, and must work through these issues before they can be together. It wouldn’t be a young adult adaptation without some form of supernatural influence (because that’s apparently the way to hook in a young female audience), and it just so happens that she’s a witch approaching her 16th birthday and will have to choose between the light and the dark at that time. Ignoring the slightly creepy notion of an underage relationship taking place in front of your very eyes, it’s as by the numbers as is possible without resorting to signposting every little twist and turn that’s supposed to keep the ending a surprise.
There are a couple of good points, notably the performances of Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson in supporting roles, and the two central characters of Ethan and Lena have a lot going for them, but it’s lost in a script that struggles to make sense of its surroundings. Characters appear without sufficient introduction and the mechanics of clear storytelling are apparently unknown to Richard LaGravanese who co-wrote and directed the film. That may seem harsh, but in comparison the direction is actually quite stylish and well presented. It keeps coming back to that script. The battle between light and dark isn’t given
nearly enough time to develop, and there isn’t much effort made to emphasise why joining the dark side (so to speak) would be so bad – there’s Lena’s sister Ridley (Rossum) and Emma Thompson’s Sarafine occasional bit of vamping up, but more time is spent with the townsfolk and their negative attitude towards witchcraft and the dark arts.
The themes and morals at work are clearly signposted, and perhaps mark the most notable aspect of the production. Again, when dealing with young adult stories these morals and thematic points aren’t hidden beneath layers of subtext – it’s there for all to see provided you pay just a little bit of attention. To cut a long story short (too late), it’s all about being yourself and not worrying about what others think of you and, to an extent, never being too much of one thing or another. Standard stuff really.
It goes to show that what works in a novel may not directly translate to the screen, and smells distinctly of a lazy adaptation of the source material. With some thought about structuring the story for a film rather than lifting the story structure apparently verbatim from the text, it lacks the punch of a solid three act structure and is a touch too ponderous and slow for the middle section to hold its own. It’s unlikely that we’ll see more of the books adapted, but if Warner Bros et al see any promise in producing a follow-up, let’s just hope that the story makes more sense next time.