Offensive is a word that gets tossed around so often that it doesn’t hold nearly the impact that it once did. And although some might view Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures as a harmless albeit cheesy teenage romance story, there are fewer films that have been this offensive to its audiences.
Our story focuses around Ethan Wate, played by Alden Ehrenreich, a high school-aged country bumpkin who wishes he could be anything but; he longs for something different from the bleak outlook that his future holds. Before long, he meets new girl Lena Duchannes, played by Alice Englert. It is apparent that she isn’t anything like the other girls, and there are rumors that her entire family is devil worshipers, which upsets the highly religious townspeople. Although she isn’t the evil creature that she is being accused of, her and her entire family is a group of witches, or casters. Lena’s secret is that when she turns 16, her already impressive powers will not only significantly increase, but be claimed for either the light or the dark based on the person that she is. With a large portion of her family already turned toward the dark, her fate may be sealed, putting Ethan and everyone he loves at risk.
The first major problem about this film is the prejudiced way in which everyone in the town is portrayed. The entire population puts all new meaning to the phrase, “God-fearing.” Literally, everyone in Gatlin other than the Duchannes and the other protagonists of the film are the worst stereotypes of unenlightened, prejudiced Christians. Even the teenagers and children of Gatlin are calling for the witches to be burned at the stake despite there being no evidence that any member of the family is anything but being slightly different.
In other films, sure there are some members of those communities who act that way. But here, they are all easily led and influenced sheep who have less of an impact on the plot than the settings that they inhabit. The lead characters have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Lena loses her temper as she takes it out on local teenagers for the heinous crime of being brats. Macon Ravenwood, played by Jeremy Irons, does nothing to intervene in a spat between his niece and daughter, even though the conflict will lead Lena closer to “the darkness.”As for Ethan, he is the embodiment of a selfish, thankless child. He reads nothing but banned books and makes constant statements about wanting nothing more than to leave the town he’s called home his entire life; all because he wants to rebel against every semblance of authority because of undue feeling of inflated superiority. The leads mean nothing more than to pander to the target audience and are insulting to the rest.
The primary conflict of the movie comes from what will happen if Lena turns to the darkness instead of the light. However, there doesn’t really seem to be any significant ramifications in the film, or at least none that are very thoroughly explained. The only three people here who have turned to the darkness aren’t shown as any worse off when they were before. The darkness doesn’t seem to be anything specific; the people are evil already just now have an official designation that they use to rationalize their evil deeds. It’s not as though they were good people who were consumed by an unseen evil force that coerces them subtly to do wicked things. They are already heinous people who just give in to their dark side and that’s called being consumed by “the darkness.”
The movie did what it could to tell a story; it was just a story without interesting or dynamic characters, a plausible romantic subplot, a conflict with a riveting climax and definitive, satisfying conclusion or any substantial subplot to provide further development of the side characters. Anyone outside of the film’s immediate target audience – 14 to 16-year-olds who feel as though they are currently trapped in their lot in life – will receive little to no enjoyment out of this. With a slew of better films out there, even within this genre, audiences would be better served seeing something else.
One star out of four.
Watch the trailer.