Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Given the success of the Twilight films, it comes as no surprise that nearly every subsequent movie that has any remote connection to the theme of supernatural romance is compared to the Stephanie Meyer juggernaut. Based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures is undoubtedly attempting to fill the void left by the ending of the Twilight series. Unfortunately, while Beautiful Creatures shows flashes of greatness, the story, and perhaps more importantly, the actors, never capture the magic of Bella and Edward.

17-year-old Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) wants nothing more than to escape the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina hometown in hopes of bigger and better things. As Ethan explains it, he feels trapped in his dead-end town, where virtually every important piece of literature is on the banned list and people enthusiastically re-enact the Civil War as if they can bring about a different result. Ethan’s spirits brighten considerably when he meets the new girl in town. Dark-haired and brooding, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) immediately catches Ethan’s attention. He believes she is the girl he’s been dreaming about for months.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURESWhile the rest of the class happily makes fun of Lena for being the niece of town outcast Macon (Jeremy Irons), Ethan continues to try and get closer to her. In that process, he discovers that Lena is a witch or more appropriately, a Caster, who nearing her 16th is facing a critical time in her life. It is then that her future as a force for Light or Dark is decided. While Macon works feverishly to protect his beloved niece, attempting to get her to focus on the crucial day, Ethan finds himself unwittingly caught up in the whole thing. Ethan and Lena have fallen in love. However, in the midst of this, Lena is visited by her Dark cousin Ridley (Emmy Rossum), a Siren, and her mother, Sarafine (Emma Thompson), an alpha Dark Caster, who’s exploiting a long-held curse to keep the birthday girl on a path to darkness.

Beautiful Creatures presents viewers with two likeable leads. Their romance is sweet and believable, instead of the sulky, emo variety served up by the Twilight films. That’s certainly a credit not only to the source material, but Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, particularly the former, who imbues Ethan with a quirky, easy going personality that makes him fun to watch. The film also benefits greatly from the prestige that Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Viola Davis bring to the project.

Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t save Beautiful Creatures from falling short. The script, adapted for the screen by director Richard LaGravenese, has so many exposition about destines, curses, and the like, that the important character stuff often gets buried. Further, several characters just disappear from the film without explanation…very frustrating. I imagine people who loved the books will enjoy this film, but others might find themselves wanting more.

Beautiful Creatures is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Warner Bros. 1080p transfer is a average, balancing the South Carolina atmosphere with the fantastical world of the Casters. There’s a nice element of film grain present, but the presentation doesn’t maintain a filmic look throughout. There is occasional loss of detail, and some digital blurring on a few backgrounds. However, Close-up images are sharp throughout. Black levels are a bit soft, and shadow detail is minimal.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does its best work during the supernatural elements of the film. Surrounds and the subwoofer are used to full effect. However, scenes in the ‘real world’ come across as rather flat. Thankfully, the occasionally dynamic score does give these scenes some life, but I would have expected more.

English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.

Along with a DVD Copy of the film, and UV Digital Copy, the following special features are available:

The behind-the-scenes material is broken up into several 3-4 minute pieces that often repeat the same clips. My guess is, it gives the appearance of more special features than their actually are.

  • Book To Screen (HD, 3:58) The authors of the novel join cast and crew to discuss the process of bringing the novel to the screen.
  • The Casters (HD, 3:22) Cast and crew discuss the Casters and the important part they play in the story.
  • Between Two Worlds (HD, 4:17) More character descriptions.
  • Forbidden Romance (HD, 3:12) Could have been added to the featurette above.
  • Alternate Worlds (HD, 5:17) The longest featurette gives us a peek at the special effects.
  • Designing The Costumes (HD, 3:51) Take a look at the costumes.
  • Deleted Scenes: There are four in total, with no play-all option.
  • Trailers (HD) Three trailers and TV spot for the film, and a promo for Margaret Stohl’s Icons.

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