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Beautiful Creatures Review: The New Twilight?

After five movies and a worldwide gross of over $3 billion the Twilight Saga has ended, and now the pretenders who wish to claim its crown are circling. First out of the blocks is the supernatural romance Beautiful Creatures, which despite some flourishes, is a clone of the first Twilight movie. Gatlin, South Carolina is a backwater town in the Bible Belt. It is a place where religion is so dominant that the public library has a massive banned list of books, and the few people who live there are either "too stupid to leave or too stuck to move." Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is a high school student who has started junior year, and he has had a recurring dream of a girl whose face he cannot see. It turns out that the girl of his dreams is a new student, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), and what is even more extraordinary is that she is a caser (because the term "witch" has too much of a stigma).  Despite their attraction to each other, Lena is cursed to join the dark side on her sixteenth birthday and her protective Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) wants to keep the teens away from each other as two evil witches, Sarafine (Emma Thompson) and Ridley (Emmy Rossum) want to ensure Lena becomes evil. There are plenty of comparisons that could easily be made between Beautiful Creatures and the first Twilight movie. Plot-wise, both are teen romances about a mortal (a bit of an outsider) and a supernatural being who lives in semi-isolation from mainstream society. Both movies also follow the idea that the supernatural creatures try to push away their partner, fearing they are too dangerous. Both movies use similar storytelling techniques, particularly the use of dreams and voiceovers, and both are set in distinctive areas of America. That being said, there are also some distinct differences between the two movies, examples being that Macon tries to keep the two apart in their affair, and that writer/director Richard LaGravenese brings his own stylish approach to the movie. Tonally, Beautiful Creatures starts with a sarcastic tone as evidenced by Lena and her overal personality. It wants to play as a parody of the Deep South. The best showcase is Emma Thompson’s alter-ego of Mrs. Lincoln, a fundamentalist Christian who launches moral crusades and claims people who do not believe in her narrow viewpoint of the world there are going to hell and is essentially a satircal look at those type of people. There are occasional jokes made at the expense of the political Right, and characters like high school students Emily (Zoey Deutch) and Savannah (Tiffany Boone) are mental vacuous, judgemental, religious nutcases who speak in clichés. Beautiful Creatures also brings in themes of destiny, fate, and choice with Ethan and Lena trying both to fight Lena’s path of her becoming dark but also embrace it with their romance across the ages. Macon is fighting destiny whilst Sarafine does everything in her power to ensure it happens. Added to this are some mild themes of natural vs. nurture with elements of Lena’s character exhibiting moments of darkness. Finally there is a additional religious theme about the fall of Sarafine, much like the downfall of Eve in the Garden of Eden and curse she put on all women, a theme prominent in medieval ideology - humanity’s yearning for knowledge and creating ideas and their impacted is touched upon. This however does not play as big a part on the proceedings. As a lead (Ehrenreich is a brand new actor) his character was at least proactive, willing to fight for Lena and against the curse, compared to Bella Swann who simply waitied for a man to save her. Ehrenreich is compensated with Englert who demonstrates character and wit as she fights her fate. And despite her limited screentime, Thompson was having a blast as the villain and dominated the screen when given the chance. Beautiful Creatures is slowly paced and turns more somber as the running time goes on. As a whole, Beautiful Creatures has a little more substance then the Twilight Saga but it is not going to win over detachers of these romantic/supernatural movies. There are just too many similarities to Twilight to make it stand out.


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