The lore of the young witch has gone in a lot of directions. Most of them are teenagers, when they are at that crucial stage of transition into the rest of their lives. Of course they are going to make mistakes, but that’s how they learn. Harry Potter is the poster child on magical teenagers, but a lot of stories have tackled these kids and supernatural powers. Imagine yourself as a teenager and you found out you had witch-like powers. Would you want to continue your life and proceed as planned or research this new path and learn about the magic you’ve inherited.
What’s interesting is how much we are afraid of witches. And I’m not just talking about the Salem Witch trials, but even farther then that. I’ll tell you all now that The Wizard of Oz was one of the first movies I saw, and the wicked witch was the first movie villain I feared. We know they’re not real but they have been the staple of storybook desperado for a long time. Whether they’re taking children away or punishing simple farmers, the image of the witch is often the first thing we associate bad guys with. So rarely do we ever come across good witches. We can add Lena from Beautiful Creatures to this small list.
Rather then opening on the unsuspecting girl, we are introduced to the simple, naive young man that will woe the supernatural. Young Ethan (played by Alden Ehrenreich) lives in the small town of Gaitlin, South Carolina, hating that fact he lives in such a simple setting. The southern town is full of rednecks and god-fearing women who believe in keeping us safe from all demons. Ethan enjoys reading banned books and dreams of going to a college as far away as possible. His life changes when a new girl in town arrives for the first day of junior year.
Lena (played by Alice Englert) has just moved in with her reclusive uncle. This causes rumors to spread that she and her family are Satan worshippers. For some reason, only Ethan seems to think otherwise. On his way home, Lena’s car breaks down so he gives her a ride. They bond over their love of literature and that they have both lost their mothers. Eventually, she invites him in the her house (which looks like The Haunted Mansion from Disneyland) and he meets her uncle Macon (played by Jeremy Irons) They reveal that they are a group of people called “castors” that basically witches with different names. Her uncle and Ethan’s nanny Amma (played by Viola Davis) are trying to keep them apart for reasons I won’t spoil, but the two kids want their relationship to work.
You can see that there is a lot to compare to Twilight. It’s obvious that this movie is going for the same crowd. It has a supernatural romance and it tries to establish it’s own rules. But is it a Twilight knock-off? I think the studio thought so, but I was surprised how different it is.
For one, Ethan and Lena actually have chemistry. Unlike the stiff and cold love of Edward and Bella, these guys actually look and feel like a couple. There’s a lot of building through their friendship and eventual romance. Plus they DON’T represent modern teenagers. These are outsiders that I actually found fascinating. The supporting cast is a mixed bag, but also has it’s moments. Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson (which for spoiler reasons I can’t explain) are well casted into their parts. Beautiful Creatures does fine explaining how the world of the “castors” works, even if it does get a little clunky. What I would have wanted is a better constructed third act as it feels too slow. After taking too long with the climax, it builds too much on a possible sequel. But the first two-thirds were actually pretty good.
I’ll give this three and a half climbing vines out of five. I can’t call this great, but it’s actually not that bad. I found Beautiful Creatures more entertaining then any of the Twilight movies. I hope that the creators of the movie can shift more focus on the lovers then witch world around them.