Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Book to Film Review: Beautiful Creatures

About the film
Beautiful Creatures is a 2013 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The film is a 12A and has a run time of 124 minutes.

Ethan Wate has lived in Gaitlin, South Carolina his whole life, a place where nothing ever happens are films come on at the cinema months after release. When new girl Lena Duchannes starts school, everything changes. Ethan has been dreaming about her for months, not having any idea who she is. Rumour has it that her family are devil worshippers and Lena is quickly cast aside by the rest of the school… except for Ethan. After revealing secrets to each other, Lena and Ethan become inseparable, even after the warnings from both of their families. Lena is actually a witch, (a castor) and on her sixteenth birthday, it will be decided whether she will be light or dark. There are people wanting Lena to go to the dark side and will do anything they can to make this happen.  

What I thought
Having read the book a few years ago, and it being one which I really liked, I really wanted to see this film. However, film adaptations are a bit hit and miss so I was a little apprehensive about whether or not this one would be good.

Alden Ehrenreich was cast as the lead, Ethan Wate after Jack O’Connell could no longer do the role. Unfortunately, I hated him as Ethan. Playing a Southern boy, I expected his accent to be much better than it was and I found that it annoyed me every time he spoke. I remember Ethan in the book being quite funny but not at all like his character in the film. Here, he was silly beyond belief, making a fool out of himself a lot of the time and more in a cringy way than anything else. I just didn’t believe Ehrenreich was the right person to play this role, especially as the character had changed somewhat from how he was written in the book.

However, it was refreshing to have him narrate the film, as most young adult books/ films are narrated by girls. Due to his narration and him having lived in Gaitlin his whole life, we get to learn what the town is like. However, again, unfortunately not like in the book. In the first few chapters in the book, Ethan goes on and on about how slow the town is, how people never leave and how nothing happens. While he does state this in the film, you never really get the urgency of him wanting to leave as soon as he can. There is very little time spent getting to know Ethan before Lena turns up. Because of this, Gaitlin doesn’t seem like a small, quiet town at all because the excitement comes quite quickly.

Unlike for Ethan, I did really like the casting of Lena, who is played by Alice Englert. Lena is a quirky but quiet character, not wanting to give too much about herself away. She just wants to get on with life in Gaitlin until her birthday arrives and she wants to stay out of trouble. Ethan doesn’t let that happen though as he never leaves her alone. Englert brings a quiet confidence to the role of Lena, not making her too over the top when she could have been and subdued when she needed to be as well. She was also likeable, which is more than I can say about Ehrenreich.

One of my biggest problems with this film is that Ethan and Lena’s relationship wasn’t properly explained. I went to the cinema with two friends to see this, both had not read the book beforehand. They both came out afterwards quite confused and not really understanding what had happened or why. Ethan is supposed to have been having vivid dreams about Lena for quite some time before she arrives in Gaitlin although this is not really shown. Yes, we are told that he doesn’t sleep much and that he dreams of her but the importance of these dreams is never shown. This is also where their relationship in the film falls short. Because the audience never get to understand Ethan’s dreams, or see how long he has been dreaming about Lena, their relationship seems to happen very quickly and get intense even faster, making it unbelievable and silly.

Secondary characters are also lacking and underused. In the book, Ethan’s best friend Link is quite a big part of his life and here, he is brushed over quickly. Lena’s mother is not introduced well, with her just being there at one point without so much as an explanation of who she is or why she is there. Ethan’s dad is great character in the book but in the film, he is shoved away in a room never to be seen which I was very disappointed about. As a book, Beautiful Creatures has so many interesting and different characters but they are either missing completely in the film or they only get a few minutes of screen time.

While I was annoyed with the casting and the differences from the book, there are some good things about Beautiful Creatures. For one, the setting is stunning. I loved the small, Southern town setting and the use of the Civil War to explain some of the history. This also comes into play when explaining about Lena and Ethan’s pasts and how they are linked. Once the real excitement begins and things do start happening regarding Lena and her birthday, the film got much better. Up until this point though, I was extremely bored and would have been quite happy to turn the film off had I watched it on DVD.

With some good adaptations out right now, like Warm Bodies, Beautiful Creatures fell extremely short for me and now, I don’t think I would want to go and see the other films in the series because of that. 

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