Since I love to both read and watch movies, I’m going to do another book vs. movie review! This time I chose a Young Adult novel that my best friend and I recently read, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Let’s begin with the book…
Our narrator is 16-year-old Ethan Wate, who lives in the small Southern town of Gatlin, South Carolina. Ethan is haunted by a recurring dream where he is desperately trying to save a girl, whose face he can not see. He doesn’t know who she is or why he’s dreaming this but he is so drawn to her and feels he would do anything for this beautiful stranger. Ethan’s mother died last year and his father has been cooped up in his study “writing” ever since, leaving Ethan to be looked after by their superstitious, grandmotherly housemaid, Amma.
The people of Gatlin’s favorite pastimes include attending church and participating in the annual re-enactment of the town’s historic Civil War battle, complete with Confederate soldier costumes and big antebellum dresses. (The authors goes on to paint the perfect picture of small-minded, Bible beating hypocrites for us.) At Jackson High School, where Ethan attends as a Junior, you are either on the inside or the outside with the popular group, and Ethan has recently broken up with his cheerleader girlfriend, thus leaving him dangerously close to being on the outside. But he doesn’t mind much as he longs for something more than a close-minded life in Gatlin. Ethan immerses himself in books that take him far away and applies to colleges anywhere and everywhere outside of Gatlin, which he sees as his ticket out of there.
But the peace in Gatlin is disturbed when Macon Ravenwood’s (the town’s alleged “Boo Radley”) niece, Lena, comes to live with him. As all of the town’s people consider Macon and his kin to be Satanists (told you these people are small-minded), when Lena Duchannes shows up at Jackson High…it ain’t pretty, y’all. She is quickly outcast and everyone’s fears are fueled by a strange incident that occurs at school – suddenly all of the windows are blown out in the classroom while Lena is being publicly ridiculed by the other students – causing mass chaos in their quiet little town.
On his way home from school that day in a severe thunderstorm, Ethan almost runs someone over in the road only to find out it is Lena Duchannes. He offers her a ride home and quickly learns she isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. The two begin to spend more and more time together and Ethan soon finds out that Lena and her family are more different than he could have ever imagined. They are “Casters” and all have special powers – kind of like witches. Ethan and Lena fall in love and he realizes Lena is the girl from his strange, recurring dream. This is when it starts to get real good.
Her 16 th birthday is rapidly approaching, and we find out Lena is in grave danger as she nears her “claiming”, where every Caster female is claimed as either a Light or a Dark Caster on her 16 th birthday, regardless of what they wish to choose. (Obvs a Light Caster is good and a Dark one is evil.) Since all of the females in Lena’s family have been claimed Dark, she fears she will follow in their footsteps and become a monster who will no longer recognize or care for Ethan, and could possibly even hurt him.
There are so many other little interesting elements to this story that I will briefly summarize: there is an underground Caster Library where Ethan finds out his mother worked as a “Keeper” of Caster records; Ethan’s maid and grandmotherly figure Amma turns out to have supernatural powers of her own and can communicate with spirits; Ethan and Lena find a locket that when they touch transports them to the Civil War where they observe Lena’s ancestor bring her dead lover back to life (whose name also happens to be Ethan Wate…mmm hmmm) with a powerful Dark cast, thus cursing all future females in her family to be claimed as Dark Casters. And then there’s Lena’s evil, estranged mother, Sarafine, who is so desperate to have Lena join her on the Dark side that she is willing to harm Ethan in the process.
All in all the book was very intriguing and had a climactic, exciting ending that left me eager to read the second book, which I am currently reading. There are four books in the “Caster Chronicles” and I am looking forward to reading each one.
Beautiful Creatures book review – 7/10
When I heard there was a movie based on the book I was excited to see it as I obviously love reading a book and then watching it’s characters come to life before me on the big screen. As we all know though, not every movie adaptation turns out as well as fans of the book would hope. Unfortunately, this was the case for me with the movie Beautiful Creatures. Here’s my review of the movie…
The movie starts out with Ethan’s dream so I’m thinking, “ok this is good, they’re following the book already!” but I soon realized that was one of the few things that would be exactly like the book in this film. Ethan, played by Alden Ehrenreich, definitely lets the audience know the film is set in the South with an overwhelmingly Southern accent. (Side-note – It makes me absolutely sick how the media portrays ALL Southerners as having this insanely twangy country accent in any movie set in the Southeast. Hello! We’re not all rednecks! Ok I’m done now.) Amma is introduced, played by Viola Davis, a much younger version of the grandmotherly figure we get from the book, and Lena is played by Alice Englert, who perfectly captures what I imagined Lena would be like in my mind while reading Beautiful Creatures (I love it when that happens). Uncle Macon is also spot on and played by the great Jeremy Irons, and I honestly can’t picture anyone else in the role.
Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert as Ethan & Lena
Things in the movie get tricky as we jump around from scene to scene, and plot twists from the book are revealed to us in a somewhat distorted way. I found myself confused and saying “that’s not what happens in the book!” a lot throughout the film. For example, Lena’s family in the movie are not at all what we have come to know in the book. In the film they are almost comical and do not come across at all as they do in the book – like supernatural beings who you do not want to mess with. Take the character of Ridley (Lena’s cousin who is a Dark Caster) for example. She is supposed to have a hot pink streak in her hair, wear extremely short school-girl skirts and is constantly sucking on a lollipop (which drives all of the men wild) but she’s quite the opposite in the movie. Yes she is seductive, but played by Emmy Rossum, Ridley in the movie is dark, regal and sophisticated – nowhere near Valley-Girl-evil enough! And then there’s Larkin, Lena’s other cousin, who plays a very big role in the book with a huge twist at the ending. In the movie he is just an afterthought with only two scenes and plays no significant role to the plot.
Emmy Rossum as Ridley. Where is your lollipop, Rid?!
There were other disappointments as far as plot changes including a character being completely left out of the movie, the lack of Kelting – a special and very rare ability Lena and Ethan share that enables them to communicate with each other without speaking (I felt that leaving this out made it harder for the audience to understand just how close their relationship is), and the ending was totally different than the book ending.
Alden Ehrenreich and Viola Davis as Ethan & Amma
Jeremy Irons as Macon Ravenwood
Alice Englert and Kyle Gallner as Lena & Larkin
Overall, the movie was entertaining and did feature some pretty cool special effects, but if they hadn’t read the book I don’t think the viewer would fully appreciate this bewitching and intriguing Caster world. I do not think they will be making a sequel or carrying on with four movies to match the books, as the estimated overall budget of the movie was $60 million and it only brought in $19 million in theaters (source). It will be released on DVD May 21, and may have more success as a rental.
Beautiful Creatures movie review – 5/10
If you have read Beautiful Creatures and/or seen the movie, leave me a comment with your thoughts! I would love to hear how others thought the movie compared to the book, or just what you thought of either one in general!