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Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/20/2013
Beautiful Creatures available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download 5/21
So, where are we right now in the Young Adult (YA) fiction novel movie adaptations sweepstakes? This modern trend began with the Harry Potter films and then exploded with the Twilight series. When these movies began to rake in the cash, seemingly every book in Barnes & Noble's "Teen" section was being made into a movie. But, the failure of projects like I Am Number Four and Cirque Du Freak lead many to believe that the craze was on the way out. Then, The Hunger Games exploded last year, which presumably excited many producers. Will the highly anticipated Beautiful Creatures be able to ride this wave of resurgence?
Beautiful Creatures is set in the town of Gatlin, South Carolina. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) has lived there all of his life, and he's very antsy. He loves to read and feels that Gatlin is culturally stagnant. His mother has recently died and his father has become a recluse. The only person who Ethan has contact with at home is Amma (Viola Davis), the housekeeper. Despite his ennui, Ethan is popular at school, as he's close friends with Link (Thomas Mann) and has an on-again/off-again relationship with Emily (Zoey Deutch). Things change when Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) comes to town. She's part of the reclusive Ravenwood clan, a mysterious family who were part of the founders of Gatlin and reportedly dabble in the dark arts. Ethan is immediately taken with Lena, as he admires her love of books, but also because she seems familiar. He attempts to get to know her, but she rebuffs him. We soon learn that Lena is hiding a terrible secret. Her family does have supernatural powers and they refer to themselves as "Casters". Lena is approaching her 18th birthday, at which time she will learn if her powers will be used for good or evil. Ethan is not deterred by Lena's dismissal and his insistence on being a part of his life lands him in the middle of a supernatural feud.
Beautiful Creatures certainly doesn't break the mold, as it features a story of high-school aged romance which also offers supernatural elements. As opposed to the locales from the Northwest offered in Twilight or the futuristic world of The Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures really immerses itself in a Southern gothic feel. This is something which we don't see often enough in movies these days, so this is an original point in the movie's favor.
Beautiful Creatures was written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who certainly has a track record for adapting novels, as this is at least his eighth adaptation. During that time, I'm sure that he's gotten feedback on what he left in or took out from novels. I have not read any of the books in the Beautiful Creatures trilogy, but this is a very dense movie and I got the feeling that LaGravenese tried to shove in as much as he could. The result is a movie which has some interesting ideas and a unique setting, but it's also very top-heavy, as it throws a lot of poorly-defined characters and vague ideas at the audience. For example, Emmy Rossum appears as Lena's twisted cousin Ridley. Although she's in several scenes, I felt that I never got to know her and the fact that she kept referring to Lena as "cuz" let me know that the movie didn't want us to get confused as to how she was linked to Lena. The countdown to Lena's birthday is intriguing (especially in the way it's represented visually), but the hows and whys of how she may or may not become evil aren't spelled out enough.
The movie also suffers from the fact that the lead actors can't carry the film. Los Angeles native Alden Ehrenreich does his best to assume a Southern accent, but he lays it on too thick. I've spent many years in the South and never met anyone who talks like that. He also goes too far with the "Aw shucks" approach. Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion, isn't as bad, but she doesn't bring enough energy to the role. I never cared if she "went dark". Along with Viola Davis, the cast boasts heavyweights Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons. At first I thought, "It's cool that they're in this movie" and by the end I thought, "Why are they in this movie?"
In the end, Beautiful Creatures can't find a balance. It doesn't know if it's a romance or a supernatural film and it never finds a balance. I actually liked the one scene where the "Casters" powers were put on display, as it felt like something out of a Tim Burton or a Barry Sonnefeld movie. The saddest thing about Beautiful Creatures is that someone clearly thought that it was going to be a trilogy like the books, as the movie simply ends. While it has some nice moments and an appealing setting, Beautiful Creatures failed to cast a spell on me.
Beautiful Creatures gets off to a great start by mentioning Charleston and Starbucks in the first two minues on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The transfer here is a tale of two worlds. The daytime scenes look fine, as they are sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The image is crisp, showing lots of depth and detail. The nighttime scenes look awful. It looks like a terrible day-for-night processed was used, for instead of simply being dark, the scenes are gray and shadowy. It doesn't look like something which one would see in a top-shelf production and it was distracting. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. However, the dynamic range is unbalanced and the action scenes are far louder than anything else in the movie and I found myself having to "ride" the volume control. These loud action scenes do deliver good surround sound and stereo effects, although they are a bit muddy due to the shift in volume.
The Beautiful Creatures Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "Book to Screen" (4 minutes) contains a few comments from authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, but we really don't get many details in how the movie and book differ, what specific work was done on the adaptation. "The Casters" (3 minutes) offers an overview of the supernatural characters in the film and touches on their powers. "Between Two Worlds" (4 minutes) looks at Ethan and Lena and the Romeo & Juliet-like nature of the love story in the film, as the human world and the supernatural world collide. "Forbidden Romance" (3 minutes) is almost a carbon copy of the last featurette. "Alternate Worlds" (5 minutes) takes a look at the use of visual effects in the film and how they were used to create the supernatural world. "Designing the Costumes" (4 minutes) looks at the clothing created by Jeffrey Kurland and the imagination he brought to the film. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES. There are a few interesting moments here, especially a scene with Ethan and Emily, but there are no new ideas or subplots. The extras are rounded out by three TRAILERS and a TV SPOT.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.