I am currently working my way through the Beautiful Creatures series. Apparently so are a lot of other people (the book is # 1 on the NYT Children’s Series list). It is for these reasons, that it is not surprising that I was excited to see the first film this week and very surprising that so far it hasn’t been more popular.
Although I am really enjoying the books (as you can see in my book review) they are too long, too complicated, and nonlinear in a way that I thought would make them hard to film. At the same time, I was very interested to see how they would distill the complications into a coherent narrative, especially the endings which many people found confusing.
The things I liked about the book, I loved about the movie. Many of the things I didn’t like about the book, I hated while watching the film. It is shorter, but it is over simplified and takes some unnecessary departures from the text. In particular, I think fans of the series will find fault with the ending and the combining of the characters Ama and Marian into Viola Davis’ character. The historical elements of the story were down played, and the family events (Ethan’s mother’s death, his father’s grief) were unfortunately glossed over.
Still, the acting, the character development, and the romance are even more compelling. Alden Ehrenreich made the books narrator, Ethan Wate, even more interesting, relatable, and most importantly more crush-worthy. He balances the charming southern manners with an earnestness that makes it impossible not to imagine having sweaty palms and stomach butterflies when he is near. Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons also stood out as really breathing a huge amount of life into their characters.
The setting’s incorporation into the story, both culturally and visually, is more organic. THe viewer is not endlessly hit over the head with the homogeny of the town and fear of outsiders. The moment where poetry glows through Lena’s walls also stands out as a moment where I couldn’t help but think, “that is so cool!”.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching the movie and would give people the same advice about the movie as I did about the book; if you are in the mood for a paranormal teenage romance go see this movie if you aren’t in that mood then don’t. It was fun to watch it with my sister, who hadn’t read the book and didn’t even know that it was going to be about witches and magic. It made me realize that most of my problems were incongruities with the book, that didn’t bother her at all. And even though I understand why fans of the book are upset, and not going to see the movie, I do hope they continue with the series.