Beautiful Creatures book/movie comparison

beautiful-creatures-film

One of my reading resolutions this year was to read books first before watching the film versions and with recent release Beautiful Creatures, that’s exactly what I did. I can’t believe it’s taken me till now to get into this series, which first came out in 2009, but after devouring the first book over the weekend I’ll definitely be going back for more. If anyone hasn’t heard about this bestseller yet, check out the Goodreads summary here.

beautifulcreaturesbkAside from the very sweet romance between Lena and Ethan and the magical goings on, there was plenty to like. I especially enjoyed the small town Deep South setting; Gatlin seems stuck in the past, forever harking back to the glory days of the Civil War (conveniently forgetting that the Confederates lost). Gatlin doesn’t take kindly to outsiders, and I thought the power of social prejudice was played out expertly through Lena’s experiences at high school. Then there was the cast of memorable characters: Lena’s eccentric family with their array of unique talents, Mrs Lincoln and her fellow busy-body historical society cronies, and my favourite, Amma, Ethan’s straight-talking housekeeper who ‘practically raised him’ and sees it as her job to keep him in line. You don’t mess with Amma; she might look like a sweet old afro-American lady but she is a force to be reckoned with and has by far the best lines in the book.

So I was more than a little disappointed with the way Amma’s character was sidelined in the film. Reading the book she seemed such a brilliant, larger than life person with a really important protective influence on Ethan, but she was portrayed as a quiet, almost weary bystander. At least she managed a good ‘sad face’ at one point. Quite a few of the other characters were cut too, and Lena’s evil Dark Caster mother had more shades of the archetypal cackling witch than the sinister presence she had in the book. And as many of the high school scenes were cut, you didn’t get as much of a sense of Lena’s isolation and her inner struggle between wanting to be accepted and yet seeing through the shallow-minded people who rejected her.

But of course it’s hard to capture every aspect of a book and filmmakers do often need to simplify, and what they did choose to focus on I thought they did well – Lena and Ethan’s love story. Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert were perfect as the leading duo. Both relatively unfamiliar faces in the world of film, they managed to capture their characters’ quirkiness and to make the romance between them feel genuine.

The ending is quite a bit different to the book, which usually causes a bit of controversy, but I actually thought it was much stronger (gasp!), at least in a film context anyway – and it left the film feeling quite self-contained rather than with an obvious cliff-hanger. I don’t know if any more of the books will be made into films, but if not then this one can definitely stand alone as a film in its own right.

My friend who I went to see it with hadn’t read the book and isn’t into YA fiction, or even fantasy that much, and she said she enjoyed it, so I’d probably recommend it to most people. But maybe this is one film that you can appreciate better if you haven’t read the book, because it will have less to live up to!  I’d love to know what other fans of the Caster Chronicles think about the film.

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1 Comment

  1. Helen Stone

     /  February 21, 2013

    I’m famous!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply

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