When I found out Beautiful Creatures was going to hit the silver screen, I knew it would be a gargantuan disappointment. I mean, come on, how in the world can moviemakers crunch a 500+ word tome into a two-hour flick without garbling the plotline and obliterating important characters? As I expected the movie distorted the entire story, characters and plot threads into a hot mess of teenage melodrama. Not since Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, have I seen such a warped movie adaptation of a book.
But I have to confess, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained. Despite the choppy scenes and unanswered questions, the movie put an interesting spin on some of the characters and left me hanging with an entirely different ending. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I will say that the ending in the movie is far more interesting that where they left off in the book.
To show you the hits and misses, let me break it down for you like this.
How awesome is the Emily Blunt lookalike actress playing Lena?!? With her porcelain complexion and luxurious dark hair, she fits the profile perfectly. But what about the electric green eyes and crescent moon-shaped birthmark? How could the moviemakers overlook these significant features? Symbolic of Robert Frost’s “nothing gold can stay” prose, her stark green eyes mark her temporary state of purity. She’s constantly scribbling “nothing green can stay” on the walls with her Jedi mind-trick powers, foreshadowing her inevitable fate as a dark castor.
Literary symbolism is a huge part of the book, but the moviemakers didn’t really bother with the many references to T.S. Eliot and Faulkner. I guess it kind of makes sense considering that it would probably be lost on their teenage audience.
As for Ethan, I was not impressed by this guy at all. I pictured more of a tall, lanky, disheveled writer-type, not a short pretty boy. Sure he’s cute and all, but his big, cheesy smile has all the charms of a schmoozy used car salesman. Ethan is so much more loveable in the book because of his tragic backstory. After his mom dies in a car accident, his dad completely shuts down into a walking catatonic state. The authors did a beautiful job making me fall in love with Ethan and his sad life as an orphan. Hopefully in the next movie, they’ll delve more into his mother’s death – and Sarafine’s possible involvement.
I wasn’t digging the leading man, so maybe I’m a little biased, but the romance just kind of seemed forced in the movie. You get a better feel for their magnetism in book, especially because they can speak to each other telepathically – and when they touch, sparks literally fly! In the movie, Ethan is about as sexy as a sweet little puppy dog.
I have to tell ya, Ridley is much more interesting in the movie. Emmy Rossum does a bang-up job playing an evil-to-the-core seductress. In the book, she’s more of a rebellious punk rock princess who walks a fine line between good and evil. Yet in the movie, she clearly reached a point of no return and is a shining example of what happens when a caster girl goes dark. I really liked the flashback scene where Lena describes Ridley’s moonlit transformation from a sweet farm girl into a stone-cold killer. She has no reservations about manipulating horny boys into early graves, and I’m interested to what’s next for her in Beautiful Darkness!
Considering that it’s probably politically incorrect to cast a black woman as a housemaid in a very white bread movie set in the South, I can see why the changed Amma’s role from the loyal housekeeper to the town librarian. In fact, this was a very clever way to fold two characters into one.
To speed things along, they had to get rid of some characters, including Marian, the town librarian, castor watchkeeper, and Ethan’s mother’s best friend. Since they decided to cut out Ethan’s backstory, I guess that makes sense. I think Vioa Davis did a great job playing a wizened mystical voodoo lady of the swamps, but I was picturing more of a little old eccentric grandmotherly woman who rules the house with an iron fist. It’s a shame the movie had to leave out her complex relationship with Macon Ravenwood, and her super-cool time-bending powers.
I was so excited to see how they were going to create the library in the movie. Considering that the story is set in a small Southern town, I pictured a two-story Carnegie library with a spiral staircase and walls of books. But nope, they just decide to plop the library in a dumpy nondescript building. And that’s not the worst part! The castor library, described as a dark, dank crypt-like labyrinth of books, is just another brightly-lit extension of the library. Boring!!! With the wonders of CGI graphics, you’d think that they could come up with something more Harry Potteresque than that.
Oh and what’s the deal with the Book of Moons? Of course they had to save time by omitting characters and scenes, but why did they have to leave out the creepiest, most deliciously atmospheric scene in the whole story? I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll just say that Ethan and Lena had to go on a rather gruesome grave-digging quest to find the book.
Of all the magical characters, I found Uncle Macon to be the most fascinating. As the story unfolds, he gets more and more complex, leaving me with more questions than answers. Is he a castor or some sort of dark angel? What’s going on with his strange connection with Ethan’s dead mother? Of course, he isn’t nearly as interesting in the movie, which basically pigeonholes him as just another castor. And what about Boo Radley, Macon’s ginormous dog? I was really hoping he’d make it to the big screen, but hopefully he’ll make an appearance in the next movie.
Now here’s where the moviemakers made some smart choices in cutting the fat. The book is long, and in some spots, it gets really tedious. The movie left out a lot of the stereotypical mean girl antics and high school party shenanigans, which is totally fine by me. I was glad to see that the movie didn’t bother with Lena’s surprise birthday bash, which seemed to go on and on and on forever. However, the book beautifully captures the evils of small-mindedness and bigotry. It’s a sad fact of life that we live in a society filled with judgmental, unforgiving people. And what better way to bring this message home than by sticking a witch in a god-fearing bible belt?
I would love to go into detail about the plot twists and alternate ending, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. But I will say that if you resolve to only watch the movie, you are missing out big time!