Love casts an adolescent spell in ‘Beautiful Creatures’
Updated: March 15, 2013 12:16PM
This so-so supernatural teen romance is sort of like “Twilight,” basically, except it’s about witches instead of vampires and the perpetually menaced mortal is a boy.
Who doesn’t flex his shirtless muscles even once, if memory serves.
Based on a best-selling series of books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, “Beautiful Creatures” is equally concerned with the struggle between good and evil on a cosmic scale and the exquisite agonies of young love. With the satisfaction of sticking it to the popular kids in school thrown in at no extra charge.
All of this gets under way quickly when 15-year-old Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert, a relative newcomer and the daughter of director Jane Campion) shows up in tiny little Gatlin, SC and moves into the forbidding gothic mansion of her semi- evil-warlock uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons, looking entirely uninterested). Seventeen-year-old Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) immediately takes notice, partially because Lena looks a lot like the girl in a recurring dream he’s been having (in which he’s always struck by lightning; dude, take a hint) and partially because she immediately disses the local mean/popular girls, who accuse her of devil worship and dressing weirdly. And then have hysterical hissy fits when all the windows in their classroom mysteriously implode.
Despite the fact that Lena is a disdainful sort who insults him continuously, Ethan is convinced they are soul mates and, in fact, as fellow social outliers, they do eventually bond over a fondness for banned books and the poetry of Charles Bukowski. But there’s still one little problem that needs to be addressed, namely, the fact that Lena is young witch with exceedingly mind-boggling powers who will be claimed by either the forces of light or darkness on her 16th birthday. If it turns out she’s born to be bad, the entirely evil Saraphine (Emma Thompson, always a plus) has plans to use her to rule the world.
There are plenty of magical sub-plots to keep things needlessly complicated, including Ethan and Lena’s connection to another ill-advised mortal/witch romance during the Civil War, plus a Duchannes-family curse that can only be broken by Ethan’s untimely death. And there’s just enough spell-casting action to keep the scenario from becoming too lethargic. Yet, as in “Twilight,” the only thing that really matters is whether or not the young paramours are joined in love’s sweet song.
Which is to be expected, of course, though it’s also a little suspect, considering dark witch Saraphine’s forcefully expressed views on the subject — and the impressionable age of the young ladies being targeted by the tale .
“Love’s just a trick of the mind,” she says. “It’s a spell, invented by mortal men, to give women something to play with instead of power.”
Pay no attention, though; she’s the bad guy.