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Beautiful Creatures is a modern fairytale

Sarah Chayer, 4Play Writer
February 27, 2013
Filed under 4Play

It’s appropriate that “Beautiful Creatures,” a modern fairytale about love, is as enchanting as its subject matter.

“Beautiful Creatures,” based on a book of the same title by Kami Garcia and Magaret Stohl, is the story of Ethan Wate. Ethan, played by Alden Ehrenreich, is your average Southern high school boy. He looks forward to leaving his small town Gatlin, S.C. in the rearview mirror. Since he is anxious for some kind of change that will destroy the dullness of everyday life, his interest is stirred when the strange and mysterious Lena Duchannes, played by Alice Englert, moves to Gatlin.

Rumors surrounding the Duchannes family peg Lena and her relatives as evil Satanists. Many of the townspeople, including her high school classmates, don’t want her around.

Ethan befriends Lena and learns that she and her family have powers. However, instead of referring to themselves as witches, they prefer the term “casters.”

Not repelled by Lena’s unique skills, Ethan pursues a romantic relationship with her.

Lena explains to Ethan that on a caster’s 16th birthday, she must either be claimed for the light or the dark. Male casters have a choice, much like Lena’s beloved light-aligned uncle Macon Ravenwood, played by Jeremy Irons. Female casters, however, do not. They are consumed by whichever side they are destined to be, good or evil.

We are also introduced to Lena’s cousin Ridley, played by Emmy Rossum, who was claimed by the dark on her 16th birthday and banished from the family. Ridley resents the fact Lena is so loved and protected, while exhibiting even stronger potential for becoming dark.

Lena’s 16th birthday is approaching, and secrets are spilled of a curse that will ultimately make Lena dark if not lifted.

Despite many strange encounters with Lena’s family and their powers, Ethan stands at Lena’s side — even after an encounter with the dark caster Sarafine, played by Emma Thompson, who hopes to claim Lena for the dark.

Sarafine hopes that Lena will lead the casters to a world where mortals are the inferior creatures.

The struggle we see Lena going through in an attempt to be claimed for the light rather than the dark is something that we all deal with. We don’t have magic powers, but our choices do reflect goodness or evil and can affect who we will become.

Ethan’s desperation to leave his small town and not look back is another cultural cliche that the majority of us feel. We want to hit the road for some new adventure and leave our hometown with nothing but our burnout tracks. Because of that shared emotion, we are drawn to Ethan’s character. We want him to find that adventure he is looking for, and it definitely resides with Lena.

The story itself is interesting and a unique take on witches, and feels fresh. However, the dramatic romance bits get rather repetitive — so much so that some scenes feel like the same portion of the script being read in front of a different background.

The humor throughout “Beautiful Creatures” is fun and refreshing. Some of the laughs certainly aren’t expected based on the trailer. The jokes, cracked mostly by Ethan, keep the movie from feeling too romantic or too dramatic.

One of the most impressive aspects of “Beautiful Creatures” is casting two unknowns as the leads. Ehrenreich and Englert are two fresh faces with no attached preconceptions or associations, making Lena and Ethan more genuine as characters.

“Beautiful Creatures,” though overly dramatic at times, is structured very well with an effective story arc that will keep viewers entertained and compelled to learn more about the world its story takes place. As the title suggests, this is a beautiful story with some strong messages that can be taken to heart.