After "Twilight," the "Beautiful Creatures" Come out to Play

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A supernatural love story set in the South, this movie tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers: Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man longing to escape his small town, and Lena (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town. Based on the first novel in the best-selling series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
December 19th, 2012

After "Twilight," the "Beautiful Creatures" Come out to Play

-- From the moment the final "Twilight" film hit theaters, fans and movie studios alike began looking for a new series to fill their hunger for paranormal romance. Director Richard LaGravenese may have given the world exactly what it's been looking for in the upcoming 2013 film "Beautiful Creatures."

"Beautiful Creatures" is a paranormal romance based on the first book of "The Caster Chronicles," a series of young adult novels written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. This series centers on the uneasy combination of small town life and the magical world that exists just beneath the surface.

The casting of "Beautiful Creatures" is superb. Emmy Rossum has true acting talent and a look that attracts film-goers. She's come a long way since her appearances in "The Day After Tomorrow" and "The Phantom of the Opera." She now heats up the screen as her character, Lena Duchannes, struggles through this coming-of-age film in which she is a pawn in a fight between dark and light magic. Joining her in this fight is Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), a strong but supportive love interest with secrets of his own.

Secrets are at the heart of the film and drive the action forward at a pace that is sometimes blistering. The biggest secret is the world of the Casters, a group of individuals and families with supernatural abilities living among the mortal, non-magical humans who distrust and fear them. Within this community are those who have embraced the darkness that Lena struggles against, and this group of casters is pushing Lena to become as dark as possible.

The dark casters are powerful and unrestrained in their use of magic, a characterization that Emma Thompson portrays wonderfully in her dual roles of Mrs. Lincoln and Sarafine. The two roles are opposite sides of the same coin. Mrs. Lincoln is a religious zealot who leads the townspeople in their persecution of Lena and her family, while Sarafine is a powerful dark caster who possesses Lincoln's body and shows an equal amount of zealotry toward setting Lena on the path to darkness. Her character's intentions are clear; she wants casters to rule the world. Thompson brings an acting veteran's vision to the role, making both of her characters come alive onscreen and differentiating the two extremely well.

Another veteran who brings decades of acting might to the movie is Jeremy Irons as Macon Ravenwood. Ravenwood is an incubus, a supernatural being with the need to feed on those around him. In his case, he chooses the least intrusive feeding method possible, consuming people's dreams. He is Lena's uncle, and he has the unfortunate duty of guiding her as she approaches her Sixteenth Moon, the time of her choosing between the dark side or the light. Irons shows just what years of good acting experience can accomplish as he builds a depth of character that quickly makes Ravenwood feel real to audiences.

One of the primary questions on the minds of fans of the book series is just how far the movie veers from the book's plots and characterizations. While a few changes are inevitable as the realities of converting a book into a movie are met head-on by the producers, the director, and the actors, fans will be relieved that director LaGravenese attempts to remain as true to the story as possible. One example of an indirect change to the book is in the casting of Viola Davis as Amarie Treadeau, a seer and nanny of principal character Ethan Wate. The age of the actress has seemingly knocked decades from the supposed age of the character in the book series.

The look of the movie really hits the mark. The world of "The Caster Chronicles" is brought to life beautifully, with great work done to present the details of both the magical and the mundane. The South Carolina town of Gatlin oozes Southern charm and has a combination modern and retro look that speaks volumes about the timeless state of the town. The fantasy elements are also well presented, and the magical special effects blend smoothly with the mundane world that surrounds the characters.

So far, there are four books in the series, beginning with "Beautiful Creatures" and reaching a finale in "Beautiful Redemption." This presents ample material for a series of movies if the first film is received warmly by audiences. It's a young adult paranormal romance, the same genre as the Twilight series, but the feel of the story is much darker. The actors were chosen with care to truly bring the books to life, and Rossum and Ehrenreich have the onscreen chemistry to keep the romantic aspects of the story fresh and interesting. Movie producers seem to be looking for the next big moneymaker with a new "Twilight," but while there's not quite the same fan obsession with "The Caster Chronicles," there are possibilities that a new blockbuster series is ready to grab the "Twilight" crowd and give them a completely new set of characters to love.