Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures – A Novel to Film Comparison

Beautiful Creatures Poster 2*This review is directed towards those who have read the novel the film is based on, but this review does not contain any spoilers.*

The first trailer for Beautiful Creatures bought me on the concept of a romance set in a world of witches or “casters” as they liked to be called.  I have been on a young adult book kick for the past year.  After seeing that first trailer, I read Beautiful Creatures, the novel, by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia.  I do not think I have ever read a fiction novel by two authors before.  The novel was pretty good, although with already knowing the actors portraying the different characters, that can hinder your imagining of what the characters look like.

The plot of Beautiful Creatures involves a forbidden romance between a mortal (Ethan Wate played by Alden Ehrenreich) and a young caster (Lena Duchannes played by Alice Englert).  The story takes place in a backwards southern town called Gatlin, where strangers, especially strange ones, do not get a welcoming committee invite.  If you are the niece of the town shut-in (Macon Ravenwood played by Jeremy Irons), then that is not doing anything good for you either.  Ethan is strangely drawn to Lena, and he notices there are a lot of weird things happening around her.  Once he finds out she is a caster, not much keeps him away.  Lena is about to turn sixteen, and that means her caster fate will be decided on that day.  She will either turn “light” or “dark,” essentially good or evil.  In the background is an evil caster named Sarafine (played by Emma Thompson) who desperately wants Lena to turn dark.  The climax of the story is Lena’s birthday, when all will be decided.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURESThe film has a lot going for it: a bestselling novel, an already established fan base, the young adult craze, and the high-caliber actors that play significant roles.  There are people out there that will not give the young adult novel-based films a chance, especially if there is a love story involved.  I would rather not lump all those films into one category, as The Hunger Games was widely liked by all.  Beautiful Creatures does have the opportunity to at least draw in new audiences with a non-vampire and non-dystopian based film.

The trailers look really similar to what happens in the novel.  Although, I was trying to figure out whom Viola Davis plays.  She is Amma, who in the novel is the Wate’s nanny and housekeeper, but she is very different from the older, fiery woman portrayed in the novel.  Turns out, the librarian character, Marian Ashcroft, and Amma are combined into one for the film.  I am not going to lie.  I missed what Viola Davis could have done with the original Amma character.  The character now is a modern woman with a secret past of her own who still tries to look after Ethan in her own way.

My major problem with the trailer is that it gives away who Mrs. Lincoln really is, which is Sarafine using her body.  That is one of the big reveals in the novel, and it does not happen until towards the end.  Is this the first time a trailer spoiled a novel?  Probably not, but it was evident that this was not as big a deal like in the novel.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURESThere are other elements from the book that have been changed or taken out entirely.  Lena and Ethan do not have the ability to communicate with their minds. This is used a lot in the novel, but it would make filming more difficult and I really don’t think it would have added much to the film.  Lena is “natural” caster, meaning she can control the weather and other elements.  The term natural is only used once and that is at the end of the film.  There is not much explanation of the different kinds of casters and their abilities.  The curse that makes the Duchannes family have to turn light or dark on their 16th birthday is also explained differently, and The Book of Moons which is used by Lena to understand the curse is found in a much more common location.  Larkin (played by Kyle Gallner) is not used much in the film and his true self is not revealed in this film.

There are pleasant additions.  There is a scene showing how Ridley (a dark caster and Lena’s cousin played by Emmy Rossum) turned dark and its immediate effects.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURESThe first half of Beautiful Creatures is pretty similar to the novel.  It is the last half and especially what happens to Ethan and Lena that is very different from the novel.  While I can imagine fans of the novel being upset about the changes, I believe the film’s ending is better and certainly stuck with me more than the novel’s ending.  The novel’s ending tells you that there is another one coming to resolve the caster issue at hand, but the film left it more open, not hinting at the novel’s ending.  The ending is also one of my favorite parts of the film.

The star of Beautiful Creatures is Alden Ehrenreich, who took Ethan Wate’s character to a different level.  Ethan is more witty and sarcastic in the film, getting many of the laughs.  He is quite the charmer.  While he is not the conventional hot teen guy you might see in a film like this, he came off as probably the most normal and down to earth heartthrob.  If you don’t laugh at the bit about Titanic, there is something wrong with you.

I ended up really enjoying Beautiful Creatures.  The ending stayed with me, and I believe I might have liked the film better than the novel.  That’s a rare thing.  There are a few minor issues with the film with the biggest being the score by Thenewno2 (huh?) which just felt out of place in most of the scenes.  In the end, there will be some fans of the book upset about the changes. You can’t please everyone, but this reviewer is pleasantly surprised by how much she liked the film.  I sincerely hope the film does well enough to adapt the second novel.  I will be eagerly awaiting it.

I give Beautiful Creatures 4 “ugly church hats” out of 5.

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by Sarah Ksiazek

About Sarah Ksiazek

Sarah is a Zookeeper extraordinaire who writes, edits, and is the resident trailer addict for Lost in Reviews. Do not underestimate her snobbery when it comes to trailers. She also owns/runs The Host Movie News which is a fan site for The Host movie adaptation.

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