The good, the bad and the beautiful - Beautiful Creatures hits the silver screen with a new paranormal romance
After Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga there is a new, epic fantasy series having made the transition to the silver screen: Beautiful Creatures.
Like Harry Potter, Beautiful Creatures all about witches and warlocks and magic, and school and popularity and the agony of being a teenager. Like Twilight,Beautiful Creatures is also a paranormal romance with a Romeo and Juliet like theme of young lovers whom fate seems to want to keep apart. Or are they really meant for each other? Like Dracula and The Vampire Diaries, and many other works of fantasy fiction, this tapestry of paranormal romance also has the theme of reincarnation woven into its fabric.
Casters of Light and Dark
Lena Duchannes is a Caster, which is what witches call themselves (because, apparently Caster sounds better than witch) and even before she arrives in the small town of Gatlin, Ethan Wate has fallen in love with her, and she is in his dreams. Love at first sight is replaced with love before first sight. Because she is something new, something different and something beautiful. Ethan is a jock, but still reads a lot, in secret, and dreams of escaping what he views as a boring, dead-end town and a boring dead-end life. Their romance is threatened by Lena's Caster heritage and her family's Dark powers and upon her sixteenth birthday Lena must undergo the Claiming, a process that will decide her fate forever: Light or Dark.
Ethan and Lena have loved each other before - in another time, but in the sameplace. The memories come back to haunt them. Their ancestors fell in love during the civil war and Lena’s ancestor tried to save Ethan’s ancestor from dying - only to give him a couple of more minutes of life, while cursing her own family forever.
It does not take a genius to release that history will repeat itself and that Lena will be more successful than her unlucky ancestor in her quest for saving Ethan.
In the meantime, Lena is often the damsel in distress who needs comforting reassuring and sometimes rescuing, while Ethan gets to be the knight in shining armour, as well as being a smart, well-read jock, who loves The Catcher in the Ryeand other great American classics. There is great power in books and learning inBeautiful Creatures and the secret library may hold information which will rescue the main characters from a grim fate.
Not Twilight – but still a delight!
The main characters are supposed to be teenagers, 16-17 years old, but the actors are in fact 22-26 years old. This is obvious. For The Twilight Saga Catharine Hardwick usually picked young actors (the main character was 17 in the books and played by a 17 year old actress) that looked like high school kids in the first place. Especially Alden Ehrenreich looks much too old for his part as Ethan Wate.
Alden Ehrenreich was discovered at a friend's bat mitzvah reception by Steven Spielberg, and Alice Englert was discovered by her mother, award winning director Jane Campion. Englert excels in showing the uncertainties of a teenage girl, albeit one with superpowers.
The bad witch and the good wizard
However, the greatest delight to watch is not the main characters, but the supporting cast. You will enjoy Emma Thompson as a crazy bad witch, (sorry, evil Caster!), the bad parent, the Darth Vader of the story, if you will - and her performance rivals that of Tilda Swinton in the Narnia chronicles. No one does an evil witch better than an English character actress. Also, Jeremy Irons has the Merlin/Dumbledore role trying to protect Lena and hoping for her to be taken by the good side of her magic. Of course this is a form of typecasting, powerful male magicians get to be the good guy, while the female magicians get to be the bad guy, just like in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The only other option for female magicians is to be the temptress (Ripley) or the innocent girl who has to be protected and saved from becoming bad (Lena). Of course there are exceptions to the main rule: magicians associated with snakes, like Voldemort in Harry Potter or the Narnia witch in The Silver Chair, are bad whether they are male of female.
Fans of the Harry Potter series will know not to trust snakes (or Slytherins) but unfortunately the two main characters have not read any books about thebespectacled little magician - so they have no idea that snakes are a sign of a bad wizard.
As bad witches go, Emmy Rossum (Ripley) seems to relish in the roll of the sexy, bad witch - also known as Lena’s cousin, the bad girl with a heart of gold. Emmy Rossum herself is often typecast as the good girl, and it is fun to see her revel in a cliché that is absolutely the opposite.
Does free will exist?
The main characters Ethan and Lena are bleaker in comparison. However, you do have fun reading the book and watching the film and seeing it play with old clichés from years of fantasy and horror and paranormal romance … You even get to enjoy a homage to the high school dance form Stephen King’s Carrie paraphrased - though with soapsuds instead of pig's blood in the bucket. And less murderous and more comical outcome. After all - we probably have three more movies to look forward to, and everyone can’t die at once.
There is much talk of history, of fate, of destiny, of predictions and of Claiming … but in the end it all boils down to this: the simple question of free will. Does everyone have free will? Can a cursed person, like Lena, still exercise her free will?!
Does Lena have to be Claimed by either side, Light or Dark, the good or the bad - or can she choose neither, and just stay beautiful?