Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

First off, I have not read Beautiful Creatures. It’s on my list; but said list is very, very long.

I’m very torn about this movie. On the one hand, it presented a rather interesting dilemma and atmosphere. It is certainly in the Southern gothic tradition-a small insular town, witchcraft, voodoo, etc. On the other hand, some of the notions do not seem well thought-out. I don’t know if it’s like this in the book, but the way the movie presents them is a bit uncomfortable.

Ethan Wate is a book hipster that is somehow still one of the cooler kids in his school. He has been having recurring dreams about a young woman he has never met. Then he meets the girl in question, Lena Duchannes, whose family (especially her odd uncle) is rumored to have strange powers and worship the Devil. The two slowly get to know each other, but as it turns out, Lena does have strange powers. She is a very powerful Caster, and she is destined to either become dark or light on her sixteenth birthday, the fate of all female Casters. The only way to escape the dark is for someone she loves to die.

Now, as I said, the movie wasn’t that bad. It was interesting, it had beautiful scenery and costumery, and you come to truly feel for Lena. (Not so much for Ethan-he’s just sort of bland. I don’t know what the girl sees in him, but you know. Rule of Romantic.) There are some epic magic confrontations and extremely creepy moments. The problem is the way many things are presented. There is a town meeting of “good Christian folk” discussing kicking a teenage girl out of school because they think she is a witch. I’m sure that would work just fine-if the movie wasn’t actually set in present day. As it is, I find it difficult to believe this would happen simply because a town is small and the majority of the people there are Christian. Literally everyone in the movie who is Christian are horrible people or complete idiots. So, there’s Problem #1: denigrating an entire belief system, presumably for some clunky attempt at satire that really doesn't work that well.

Problem #2 lies in the main dilemma-Lena’s true nature will steer her to either darkness or light. As it is, she does wind up making her own destiny. But it’s revealed that her cousin went through the same process on her sixteenth birthday, and turned out to be dark. BUT WAIT. Her cousin literally ran from the room when she felt darkness taking over to save her family. How is her true nature “dark”? The way this whole “claiming” thing works doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Problem #3 is related to this. See, the claiming doesn’t really happen to the men. They can either be dark or light and it's entirely by choice. Lena’s uncle has ceased using dark magic for her sake. He is a gruff but caring and sane man.


Seriously. Lena’s cousin, the one who was desperate to save her family, promptly goes homicidal the moment the dark claims her, and becomes a seductress extraordinaire who’s entire purpose in life is to turn Lena evil. Lena’s mother is completely psychotic, laughing maniacally and almost rubbing her hands together with glee as she plots to take over the world. When Lena briefly goes “dark side” she promptly makes a giant tornado (or possibly a sharknado, I mean we are dealing with the mentally ill here) to tear through the town and kill everyone. So why does this happen to females? Why do the women go completely psychotic while the men are perfectly fine and can control their powers? It’s not explained, but it jives so well with the hysterical woman stereotype that it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

So-great story idea, horrible execution.

Also Lena went from wearing incredibly awesome dresses and clothes to a chunky sweater that most people would have to be forced to wear. SCREW YOU LIGHT SIDE!

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