Our Film Sub-Editor Aoife Dowling saw the film at an exclusive press screening ages ago. The press embargo has been lifted, et voila!
First up, a confession: I was a teenage Twilight fan. Truth be told, I am still of the opinion that the first Twilight film isnâ€™t half bad. Â For all its flaws â€“ bad acting, cheesy lines and clunky script â€“ itâ€™s a well-told love story with an interesting supernatural twist. Romance and supernaturalism are carefully unfolded in a process of speculation and revelation, with great action scenes towards the end.
Beautiful Creatures is like a cutesy, comedy version of Twilight. Â It doesnâ€™t take itself quite so seriously. It deals in jokes instead of irony, first dates instead of longing gazes, magic powers instead of superhuman strength. The film – adapted from a book of the same name – tells the story of Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a small-town-boy who falls for teenage witch Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert).
Male protagonist Ethan is no Edward Cullen â€“ heâ€™s far from being an aloof, Byronic figure. Instead, heâ€™s a goofy, bookworm, sports-loving teenager with a heart of gold. Ethanâ€™s wholesomeness is somewhat refreshing. Heâ€™s posited as a kind of latter-day Attticus Finch – the idealist hero of the 1960 anti-racism novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Atticus, Ethan reaches out to those excluded by the tight-knit Southern community (in this case, the decidedly unusual Ravenwood family). Ethanâ€™s only negative characteristic is his terrible comic timing. Cringe-inducing jokes often disrupt the dramatic tension, to the detriment of both the character and the film.
Heroine Lena Duchannes is quite different to Ethan. Thoughtful, solemn Lena could have come straight from Twilight â€“ sheâ€™s a real Bella. Alice Englert puts in a credible performance as the teenage outsider, conflicted by choices and in a world of her own. The romance between Lena and Ethan is sweet and endearing, if not entirely convincing. It seems to come about too quickly, in a swift succession of kisses, dates and clichÃ©d phrases.
The romance soon gives way to the dominance of fantasy effects. Supernatural stunts are introduced too often â€“ crossing the boundary between scary and showy. It soon becomes difficult for the audience to keep track of various elements of the fantasy world, unless theyâ€™ve read the book. Great actors Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons are introduced in a mÃ©lÃ©e of special effects, distracting somewhat from their performances.
Beautiful Creatures is no masterpiece, but itâ€™s a solid fantasy romance to satisfy popcorn-munching teens. More than a few of them will pin posters of Ethan and Lena on their bedroom walls â€“ perhaps replacing the old Twilight posters.