Does the world need another fantasy-driven teen romance franchise? Warner Bros. certainly thinks so. Based on a series of books popular with the teen crowd, Beautiful Creatures is an attempt to fill the void left by the end of Twilight. Take some elements from the Harry Potter movies, a dash of Romeo and Juliet, and the basic story of Twilight. Mix them all together and you end up with Beautiful Creatures, a mildly entertaining movie for its intended audience.
Set in the sleepy town of Gatlin, South Carolina, we meet Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich). Ethan is an ordinary high school boy, earnest and good-natured in demeanor. His character has been consciously crafted for maximum appeal to teen girls, the ideal boyfriend. Alden’s Southern drawl sounds authentic and much better than some of the other actors in the movie, especially Jeremy Irons’ poor attempt. Recently broken up with his long-time girlfriend, Ethan is a quiet intellectual that reads “banned” books and yearns to escape the small town life he resents.
Lately, Ethan has been having repeated dreams about a girl he has never met. The new girl in class, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), happens to be the girl whom Ethan has been dreaming about. It’s not love at first sight, but the narrative doesn’t take long to put the two together in a burgeoning romance.
So what is stopping these two lovebirds? Lena happens to be a Caster, or what everyone else calls a witch. In the complex mythology of Beautiful Creatures, Casters are not allowed to love mortals like Ethan. Furthermore, Lena is about to turn 16 and that is a very important birthday for female Casters. Her nature will decide on that day whether Lena ends up as the Light (think good) or Dark (think evil). There is also an entire sub-plot regarding her family’s machinations in attempting to steer Lena to one side or the other. Jeremy Irons plays her fatherly uncle, Macon, while Emma Thompson is her evil mother, Sarafine. The entire plot pivots around Lena and her destiny.
Special mention should be made for Emmy Rossum’s brief role in the movie as Lena’s cousin, Ridley. Rossum does not appear in more than a handful of scenes, but she brings a much-needed boost of energy and verve to the entire movie. She plays a deliciously evil siren that used to be very close to Lena, and is now working to get the teen for the Dark.
Is Beautiful Creatures a great movie? No, it is an unimaginative twist on concepts already explored in the Twilight franchise. In fact, the Twilight movies are high art compared to the final results seen in Beautiful Creatures. But the story is coherent and Alice Englert has a certain charisma in the primary role of Lena. She adds a dose of feeling to the lead character that goes beyond the standard confines of teen romance. It is not a film that will satisfy viewers outside its intended demo and audience, though teen girls should eat it up with abandon.
The video quality of Beautiful Creatures is somewhat inconsistent when compared to the latest Hollywood blockbusters. There are no significant technical issues with WB’s handling of the transfer or how it looks on Blu-ray, but certain aspects of the photography and production are less than perfect. It was shot on 35mm film, almost a rarity these days for big releases.
The 123-minute main feature is encoded in AVC and has been released on a BD-50, allowing a solid video encode that handles the clean visuals without a problem. Framed in a wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the cinematography tries to take advantage of the South Carolina setting and comes up slightly short. Compositions occasionally utilize the wider scope, though the stylized VFX shots and some questionable focus-pulling will draw the viewer out of the movie at times. Occasional bouts of softness and loss of focus are not uncommon.
The source material is obviously clean as a whistle, though it has been processed to some degree in post-production. A hint of ringing can be spotted in the first act. Over 500 VFX shots are in the film and some of the settings, including the interior of Macon’s gigantic Southern mansion called Ravenwood, consist of digital composites. That leads the color palette down an oddly-saturated path. The digital color grading is erratic on occasion, exaggerating the overall tonality. Occasionally the flesh-tones will be overly orange, as inside the town meeting. It will then quickly change back, depending on the time and mood of the scene.
This is a fantasy movie at its core, so one should probably make allowances for the VFX. They are heavily-stylized visuals and the movie does attempt a new approach in these specific scenes. The VFX in Beautiful Creatures is not on par with the most expensive blockbusters, like Avatar. Some of it looks rushed and slightly unfinished.
Befitting a big-time production hoping to start a franchise, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is a very solid mix that gets quite aggressive when it wants. The surround channels and subwoofer are most alive in the magic battles between the casters, though the audio becomes eerily subdued for the more mundane aspects of the drama. This is a high-fidelity soundtrack with an excellent reproduction of the sounds one might hear on a summer day in the countryside.
Dialogue is always clear and the instrumental score is nicely balanced against the somewhat frequent usage of weather sound effects. The soundtrack is not reference caliber but there is simply not much to complain about here for a modern surround presentation. It properly immerses the viewer inside the film’s reality without much trouble.
Two dub soundtracks are provided in the forms of a 5.1 French Canadian Dolby Digital mix at 640 kbps, and a 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital mix at 640 kbps. Subtitles include English SDH, French, and Spanish; all three are presented in a white font that remains partially outside the 2.40:1 framing of the movie.
If one casually glanced at the back of the packaging with its numerous bulletin points, you would think WB had packed this combo set to the gills with special features. Unfortunately, none of the featurettes run over five minutes and much of the content is repetitive. They consist of breezy clips and brief answers from the cast and the crew, covering a variety of production details. For an actress that is not a featured player in Beautiful Creatures, Emmy Rossum is prominently featured in the extras through her interview appearances. Presumably her role will expand in future sequels.
This combo pack includes a DVD and an UltraViolet digital copy, redeemable on Flixster. A cardboard slipcover is included with original pressings.
Book To Screen (03:58 in 1080P)
The Casters (03:22 in 1080P)
Between Two Worlds (04:17 in 1080P)
Forbidden Romance (03:12 in 1080P)
Alternate Worlds (05:17 in 1080P)
Designing The Costumes (03:51 in 1080P)
Four Deleted Scenes (01:09, 02:05, 03:10, 01:46 in finished 1080P) – There is nothing of earth-shattering quality amongst this cut material, though the subject matter in them is edgier and racier than the tone found in the theatrical version. Emmy Rossum’s male admirers will likely enjoy one of the deleted scenes very much. It seems to have been cut for the purposes of an extended release down the road for this movie.
Trailer 1 (1080P)
Trailer 2 (1080P)
NY Comic Con Trailer (1080P)
Pedigree TV Spot (1080P)
ICONS by Margaret Stohl (a book trailer)
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