Susannah Sudborough ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Let’s be honest, no one was expecting anything stunning out of Beautiful Creatures. There were many aspects that kept it from being something spectacular. The dialogue was predictable and rather juvenile (although in its defense, maybe that is how most teenagers talk these days?) and the romance did not seem realistic at all, not to mention that the main characters fell in love in the span of two weeks at the most. Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), the main character and non-supernatural teenage boy, also has an uncannily high tolerance for the horrible supernatural things that happen to him. He is almost killed by his love interest’s relatives three times along with a plethora of other horrible things, and he endures this all because he is interested in a girl? I don’t buy it.
All of the tension in the movie was based off on wondering whether or not Ethan’s love interest and caster (their word for witch), Lena Duchanne (Alice Englert), would be forced to join the dark casters or not, since female casters could not choose which side they joined, dark or light. The fact that the movie ended with her being able to choose both sides was very disappointing, especially because the movie never explained why. The movie also built up the character of Lena’s birth mother (Emma Thompson) to be the most powerful dark caster ever, and then she was destroyed by being over-powered (literally) by her daughter and turned into a vine. The way and reason why Lena was able to overpower her mother was also unclear and highly anti-climactic.
I was also aware that the movie might have come off as offensive to many Southerners. It portrayed the town the protagonists live in as small, stereotypical, conservative, back-woods, very behind-the-times, and highly oppressive. Every member of the town, minus the main characters and their families, were staunch, bible-thumping, extremist conservatives. The movie seemed to shove in your face how liberal it was. The villain appeared in the body of the most conservative woman in town, who later listed off all the groups of people who would go to hell which included everything from homosexuals to democrats to Green Peace. Every conservative in the movie was portrayed as extremist and fairly evil. There was no denying that southern conservatives were portrayed in a very negative light.
However, what really left a bad taste in my mouth was the hipster, teen-angsty attitude of the two main characters. They both had such distaste for any type of norms, and the movie seemed to beat you over the head about how “different” the two of them were. Every “misunderstood” teenager wants to be and sometimes thinks that they are Lena Duchanne, and this movie only strengthened that kind of mentality. Everyone in the movie acted like Lena was somehow so original and unique, when really both Lena and Ethan are two characters we see very frequently in movies and in real life. Lena is a teenage outcast trying to deal with puberty and other issues. Ethan is a charismatic teenage boy with good intentions who wants to leave the boring small town he grew up in and become somebody. None of the characters were even mildly original. Then, you have the mysterious uncle (Jeremy Irons), the sexy girl gone bad (Emmy Rossum), the popular high school bitch (Zooey Deutch), and several other stock characters. In short, Beautiful Creatures wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before, and it wasn’t done very well either.
Yet, it didn’t try to market itself like it was something terribly original. I saw exactly what I expected to see. It marketed itself as a new supernatural teen romance very much like Twilight. One cannot blame this franchise for trying to reel in the Twilight fan-base, especially now that the vampire saga has ended and left a big gap to fill. Beautiful Creatures is undeniably similar to Twilight: the main character is seemingly average teenager and feels unfulfilled with most other teenagers and life in general, meets a supernaturally gifted teenager and falls in love with them because they are different from the average teenager, and eventually helps their love interest deal with the struggles that come with being supernatural. It is unsurprising that stories like this appeal to young adults. Teenagers are going through a time of chaos and change and are dealing with things they do not understand, much like these supernatural characters. The characters find solace in others and learn to accept themselves for who they are, which is something most teenagers strive for. So, if teenagers are going to search for stories like this, I would like to see Beautiful Creature be the example of how a teenage life should be and not Twilight.
Lena is actually a pretty independent, self-sufficient, smart young girl. She doesn’t put up with people being rude, and thinks for herself without being guilty of too much teenage rebellion. She doesn’t look for a guy, and only likes Ethan because Ethan actually likes her for who she is and gets her to think more rationally. She is even strong and independent enough to let Ethan go when she finds out that he will die if she doesn’t. Even after he is safe, she goes on with her life without him and is able to move on. Her ideal guy isn’t some cold, stoic, controlling creature who wants to kill her (like many such supernatural teen romances), but a genuinely sweet guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and will weather whatever storm comes, literally or figuratively. Neither character controls the other or gives themselves entirely to the other, but they support each other and become exactly what the other needs. That is the kind of example we should set for young adults, and the reason why I support Beautiful Creatures whole-heartedly.