Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beautiful Creatures: How Did The Movie Stand Up To The Book; Or, Why The Film Should Be Renamed 'Beautiful Disaster'

How did the movie Beautiful Creatures stand up to the book? To simply say 'it didn't' would be an injustice to fans of the series.

Within the first five minutes of the film I considered both walking out and/or asking in a very unfriendly way for a refund. As the characters that I had been introduced to in the novels were reintroduced to me on the screen, I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the basis of the movie. It quickly became clear to me that the screenwriter had not read the same source material that I had, and to say that he took creative liberties would be like saying Hurricane Katrina was just a minor disturbance in the NOLA night life.

I'm sure, or at least I'd like to believe so, that I'm in good company when I say that I sat there mildly horrified and extremely confused as what unfolded on screen bastardized the world created by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I left the theater fairly certain that I had read the wrong book. Either that, or I was intoxicated, because clearly what I had just seen was not the Beautiful Creatures that I had read. A thought that occurred only seconds before remembering that I had already promised a co-worker that I would come back and see the movie with her, assuring her earlier that day with: "I definitely will want to see this one more than once."

From the Southern accents that were overdone to a point where they became almost comedic to the combining/elimination of key characters to the complete disregard for the original story, I can only be sure that the movie was loosely based on some parts of the book series - and then placed somewhat out of order.

Without completely over analyzing for you a movie that missed the mark by several large continents at the very least, let me run down a few of the elements that were missing or ignored and ultimately led to this enormous fail - starting with Ethan making his own eggs.

  • Where was Marian? Or, more appropriately where was the real Amma? The most obvious error in judgement was combining the characters of Amma and Marian. In the book, Amma is a seer. She is also Ethan's housekeeper/nanny/maternal figure. As the series goes on, Amma takes on an added importance that cannot be duplicated or combined with that of another character. She is the catalyst for a series of events that transforms the entire story. Equally important, but in an altogether different way, is the guidance that Ethan gets from Marian. Marian is his deceased mother's best friend and colleague. She uses her unique knowledge as a Keeper to guide Ethan with his Caster-related dilemmas. Both of these characters are essential in the three remaining books - Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption.

  • Macon has a heart - and then the movie crushed it. Yes, if you read the book you already know that Lena's uncle, Macon Ravenwood's one true love was Ethan's mother, Lila Evers. However, this is a book two revelation that comes as part of a bigger storyline - a revelation which has now been stripped of its proper placement and butchered without so much as adding anything to the movie itself.

  • Why reinvent the wheel? Not only were the big things too much to keep intact, apparently so were the details. Lena's necklace is supposed to be a chunky eye-sore that she never took off. Caster eyes are always green. Macon is an incubus - not a caster - who can't go out in the daylight and uses his dog, Boo Radley, to keep tabs on things. Larkin is really a dark caster. Ridley has long blonde hair with pink streaks and sucks on lollipops all day long. Ethan's father is a shut in. Uncle Abner loves 'Wild Turkey' whiskey and lemon meringue pie. Any of this ringing a bell? Well, if you didn't read the book it wouldn't since none of it made the cut. Some of these details could have easily been included without any extra work.

After now seeing the movie not once, but twice, I have very few positive thoughts to offer. Besides the aforementioned problems with the content, the film itself was disjointed, overacted, poorly cast and just plain, unforgivingly bad. The only thing that it unquestionably has going for it is that it looks good visually. The Director of Photography should be commended for the stellar shots and I'm sure there's a location scout or two that deserve a high five. Unfortunately, audiences will forgive a film that is shot poorly in exchange for a compelling story, not the other way around. The story literally felt as if someone had read the back cover and decided to write a screenplay about it. I'm not sure exactly where the disconnect took place, but if this was supposed to be based on the novel of the same name, 'Beautiful Disaster' would have been a more appropriate title.

I hope that someone, somewhere learns from this mistake and decides in a couple of years to start back at the drawing board. This book was written for cinematic release and required very few changes to have been a success, and if done the right way absolutely could be one in the future. Take heed, fans of book series will swarm behind the finished product if it even feels like you tried to give them what they want.

For more in the way of an official review of the film, check out Jonathan Lack's (Denver Post Columnist) via We Got This Covered. My favorite quote from his review is "For the record, Beautiful Creatures only gets a full star because it is the lowest our review system will allow me to assign. "

*Update: Furthermore, there was no kelting, sixteen moons song, crossword puzzles, or red hots..