First things first, I am not here to hate on Twilight. I like to approach things as if they were religions – you respect mine, I’ll respect yours. (Or, let’s just agree to disagree.) In the great debacle between Twilight and any other YA adaptation, I root for the others, but I get it. Vampires are mysterious and sexy and they live for ever. But I prefer witches and wizards. I always have, and always will.
A few weeks ago, a new YA adaptation hit theaters. Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia’s best-selling novel Beautiful Creatures debuted on the big screen on Valentine’s Day. It tells the tale of a 16-year-old boy named Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) living in the small Southern town of Gaitlin. One day, he falls in love with a mysterious new girl named Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the niece of town’s recluse and the girl of his dreams. Ethan discovers that Lena is not like the other girls – she possesses powers and is a witch of sorts. Together they embark on journey to try to uncover the dark secrets about their families and their town.
Twilight had its share of notorious actors, but most were more famous for being on the cover of People magazine than for getting awards for their performances. The cast of Beautiful Creatures has a lot of prestige. Both Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, whom have significant parts in the movie, are Academy Award winners. There’s also Oscar-nominee Viola Davis and Golden Globe nominee Emmy Rossum. It doesn’t matter if it was the material or the paycheck that made these actors say yes to the teen fantasy, the movie is made better by their presence.
One of the biggest issues I had with Twilight (besides the fact that I’m not really into vampires) was the age difference between the lovers. Yes, I get it, age is just a number, but when that number gap is 90-plus years, age does become a factor. Period. Maybe Edward is mentally stuck at 17, but he’s lived through numerous decades and has seen so much more than Bella, how could he still have the mind of teenager after all of those Volturi troubles? In Beautiful Creatures, both Lena and Ethan are teens who are madly in love, and even though we like to hate on teen romances, it makes sense. When you’re that age, and you’re experiencing those strong feelings, it feels like nothing else in the wold matters.
Beautiful Creatures is a boy meets girl story in the vein of Romeo and Juliet. The families of these respective teens don’t allow them to be together because of their natures. He’s a normal human being, and she’s a caster. In Twilight, Bella was the human and Edward was the
monster vampire. The Volturi tried to keep them apart, but as we saw, their love for each other was a lot stronger. However, in the former film, Lena, knowing that her lifestyle is too dangerous for the boy she loves, does the Hermione Granger thing and erases all of the lovely memories Ethan has of her. She loves him, so she lets him go (for a while). In Twilight, Edward turns Bella (even though he was “against” the conversion at first) into a vampire so they can be together forever.
There’s a quote by Stephen King that says, “Harry Potter is a story about love, friendship, bravery, loyalty and the importance of family. Twilight is about the importance of having a boyfriend.”
I believe this to be true with all of my heart. Though there are some noble moments in the Twilight franchise, the themes of the story aren’t very ambitious. (The ones in Harry Potter are, but I digress.) Besides the love story, Beautiful Creatures explores the dangers of close-mindedness, religiousness, conformity and prejudice. There’s a scene in the first film where Lena walks into her classroom and Emily Asher (Zoey Deutch) and Savannah Snow (Tiffany Boone), two bullies, start saying that they can’t be in the same room as her because she’s the devil. Then they start praying aloud. It’s an infuriating moment because it shows us the narrow-minded thinking of people who just bash on what they can’t understand, and that’s something we can all relate to – being misjudged and then mistreated for it.
I enjoyed Beautiful Creatures a lot more than Twilight. It’s charming and purposely funny, and the kids are into books by Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski. (Who would’ve thunk?) The girls are the ones with the powers, and in a time where Katniss Everdeen-types are so popular, that’s a plus. And there are actually some great performances in there too. There’s also the chemistry factor. When I first watched Twilight some years ago, I felt cheated. Not because I had read the books (I hadn’t and haven’t) and felt something was missing from the story, but because of the lack of chemistry between the actors. Everything happens so fast in that first movie. Edward and Bella fall in love instantly that I didn’t buy their feelings. I like to fall in love with the characters and their relationship as they’re falling in love with each other. That’s why I approve of romantic, sometimes cheesy love stories like The Notebook, Somewhere In Time and Titanic. Chemistry is not something that should be taken lightly. It is the basis of a love story, the main ingredient. Chemistry is the essence. In Beautiful Creatures, the chemistry is there. The filmmakers took time to fully-develop the love story between Lena and Ethan. First we meet them, and then they meet each other. Then they spend time together and as they do, we fall in love with the idea of them being a couple, and before you know it they’re laughing and hugging and kissing.
But Beautiful Creatures didn’t do as well as Twilight did the first time. And regardless of how much better it is as a film, studio executives wanted this to be their next YA cash cow. But it bombed. The movie had an opening of $7.6 million, and thus far has only grossed $31.1 million worldwide (that’s half its budget). It’s very unlikely that there will be a sequel, and a long shot that it’ll develop into a franchise like Twilight. Some things just aren’t appreciated the first time around, and that’s the unfortunate case with Beautiful Creatures. So if you get the chance, you should go watch the movie at the movies.