Beautiful Creatures (2013) | Movie vs. Book Review
Release date: February 14, 2013
Runtime: 1 hr. 58 min.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Having finished the book just in time for the opening weekend, I had my hopes up that the film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures will add some much needed quicker pace to the whole thing. In a way, it happened, but what was up with all of the adjustments to the story? I do understand when details need to be left out and some parts need to be sacrificed in order to fit a novel into the time frame of a film, but making actual changes and adding things that never happened seemed unreasonable in this case. Personally, I felt like if they just stuck with the way things developed in the book they would have had a better film.
I do realize I'm about a week late with this (I've actually seen Beautiful Creatures the weekend it opened), but this is what happens when a movie doesn't work for me - I keep putting my review off until "later". If you are not familiar with the book, you might enjoy the movie more than the readers did. For me, however, it was hard to let go of my expectations and watch this with an open mind. I guess that's where the difficulty of book to screen adaptations lies: people come in with huge expectations and each with their own vision.
Before I get into the spoilery part of my post and talk about the actual changes, I want to say a few words to people trying to decide whether or not to see this. It's not some terrible movie you should avoid and as far as attempts to replace the Twilight franchise go, I think this is pretty decent for teen romance. I'm glad we finally seem to be moving on from vampires, and don't get me wrong, I love handsome mysterious vampires as much as any girl, but they have been EVERYWHERE for the past few years and it's time to explore some other supernatural beings. The movie does follow a pretty familiar path, so don't expect a new kind of story. Small town? Check. A teenager who's "different"? Check. Love against all odds? Check. An understanding and self sacrificing person coupled with a potential train wreck? Check. You get the picture and you know clichés are coming. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this, especially if you're a fan of the paranormal teen romance genre. The performances are very solid. Some of the southern accents are a bit questionable. I think if you're in the mood for this kind of movie then you should check it out - just don't expect it to be groundbreaking.
The rest of this post contains some major SPOILERS. You've been warned.
I'm not going to go over every single thing that was changed or skipped in the Beautiful Creatures transition to the screen - I'm going to mention the ones that bothered me the most. As an overall note, almost everything about the story has been simplified. For example, something that I actually liked about the book was that it wasn't just about the romance: there were other important issues to deal with, other people to care about. In the movie, however, everything is diminished to relationship obstacles. This also effected Macon's character - suddenly he is a hater of all things human and his goal is to keep Ethan and Lena apart.
The early Serafine reveal didn't do the film any favors either. OK, we got to see how brilliant and creepy Emma Thompson is. But other than that, the book builds so much more tension with her trying to communicate with Lena and when I finally read that Serafine was in Mrs. Lincoln's body this whole time it was a huge deal. In the movie it was more of a "so here's our villain" moment that barely had any element of surprise that early in the game.
Lena's Claiming scene and the curse itself got me questioning whether I read the right book. I'm not even going to describe the changes - they are very different starting with people present, to "conditions" of the curse, to the way things turned out at the end. If there was one thing they needed to leave alone, it's the Claiming - by far the best and the most intense part of the book. In the movie you could see how it all was going to go down from a mile away, especially after you see that most of the characters are left out of the scene altogether.
The last "huh?!" moment I will mention is something that doesn't exist in the book, but for some reason is a major event in the movie. I am, of course, referring to Lena erasing Ethan's memory towards the end of the film. Where did that even come from? As if we weren't getting enough of the cliché romance adaptation without it. After so many interesting details and characters being left out we get the overused "forget all about me" instead? I'm really curious to know who made this decision and why.
I could go on much longer telling you all about the things that were changed and very few of them I would consider "minor". Why did Amma and Marianne merge into one character? What happened to kelting? Why is everyone trying to mess with Ethan's mind? Why was Link killed? etc. My real question is, if you're going to change so much, why base it on the book at all? Why not write an original script? If the goal was to make a franchise to get all the book fans to watch the movies, this is not going well - almost every book fan review I read is full of disappointment. I'm obviously not raving about it myself and if more movies are made based on the series I'm definitely not paying the theatre admission price.
So what did you guys think after seeing Beautiful Creatures? Did think it did justice to the book? Would you see more films based on the series?