‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) – A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation


There is a subculture in today’s pop culture that circles around all things supernatural. One of the well-known teen novels of recent years to fit into this category is Beautiful Creatures. It sparks comparisons to Stephanie Meyer books, and inevitably earned its own big-screen film adaptation. Although it does complement its seemly title, a question this leaves me with is, is there anything particularly honest in the script?

Beautiful Creatures (2013) Film Review

Dreams of a girl he has never laid eyes on haunts Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) for months. Graduating in his high school class, Ethan has been waiting to see his small Southern town in his rear view where nothing ever happens and everything stays the same. Then into Gatlin walks Lena Duchanmes (Alice Englert), a girl with a stigma attached to her surname and an attitude to match. 

Beautiful and mysterious, Ethan immediately befriends Lena though she fights to keep him at arm’s length, Lena too eventually feels drawn to Ethan in ways she cannot explain. Her destiny – as a caster, impending birthday and family history, including the reappearance of a cousin (Emmy Rossum), makes a relationship with Ethan impossible. Or so it would seem. Contrary to her Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) and his predictions, will they be the exception?

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As a child, aside from select Disney movies, my parents were cautious about anything witch-like. Prior to the promotional material for the impending release of Beautiful Creatures, I knew nothing about this series. The cast looked brilliant which is the extent of my knowledge, yet I had to learn more about the story. Like always, my intentions were to read the book first, but I didn’t sneak that in so instead I rented the movie and prepped for a bad teen romance movie with an even worse effect. 

Most movies battle good vs. evil, and ‘Creatures’ does offer a good perspective on the lure of temptations. Lena’s family is wacky (you’ll understand when you meet them) to say the least. For generations, the women Duchanmes, upon the pinnacle of their sixteenth birthday will either be “claimed” for good or evil, and right in the middle of this battle is Lena in a kind of tug-of-war between good and evil. This is often a parallel that we see in Christianity; we are told that as human beings we cannot “help” but sin because it’s in our nature.

‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) - A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation. A review of the YA adaptation. All review text © Rissi JC

I have dissimilar conclusions however the pinnacle of the story revolves around whether or not Lena will claim her powers for moral purposes or bad. As a relatable moving story point, this element works well. It keeps up a good pace for the story and from what I understand of the book, the script cuts unnecessary information. By the time the climax comes about, despite Lena ultimately learning she’s the master of her “will,” she still takes out her anger on someone. Some viewers may be bothered by this, and others may like the poetic justice.

Now it’s time to brag up the cast. Additionally this features Emma Thompson; Viola Davis; and the always brilliant Eileen Atkins who is seriously fantastic and underused as Lena’s wise grandmother. Perhaps the star who shines the most is Emmy Rossum with her fantastic portrayal of good-girl-gone-bad Caster. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, it’s hard to determine who will end up being good, and who will be a villain. Countering the darkness is the adorable love story between Ethan and Lena. They are so sweet and cute together without all the normal teenage angst. Also, on the brighter side, the script has some unexpected, great moments of humor.

‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) - A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation. A review of the YA adaptation. All review text © Rissi JC

The writing of this review reminds of all there is to cheer for. Reflecting on the movie prompts me to remember that while I didn’t fall in love with it (for good reason) as I did the recent teen film Warm Bodies (one I did see around this same time), this is an interesting two hours. The sets, both indoors and out, are darkly beautiful as are the costumes (particularly Lena’s dress at the end); and the southern locale adds some authentic atmosphere. Pretty though it may be, I don’t see myself re-watching Beautiful Creatures; there is too much left to interpretation, and sometimes that is more dangerous than even the most threatening conclusion.

You can find Beautiful Creatures (2013) digitally on Amazon Video


‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) - A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation. A review of the YA adaptation. All review text © Rissi JC
‘Beautiful Creatures’ (2013) – A Beautiful and Flawed Adaptation. A review of the YA adaptation. #YALit #Adaptation #Movies #BeautifulCreatures #FWArchives Click To Tweet

Content: one woman dies when caster literally drains the life from her body. A caster embodies another to conceal her identity; another man is bewitched and shoots another person, the result is death. There is some minor sexuality – we see a high school student making out twice with an older woman [he’s under a spell] and there may be a minor sexual joke or two; Ethan goes into a trance. Lena’s anger unleashes her power, shattering a window and wiping out memories. There’s immodest dress. There is various spells. Uses of sh*t, h*ll, da*n, etc is present. The film is PG13.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. The strong anti-Christian bias throughout is a shame, because overall I enjoyed this book/film's approach (through the eyes of a boy, for once) and it did have an excellent cast. I admit, however, that I found the adults more interesting than the teenagers — Macon Ravenwood, for example… although I do love Ridley. I wish the entire movie had been about her!

    1. Running across a novel (no matter the genre) that favors the male presence is rare. Even Christian fiction most often tends towards the female persuasion as opposed to the male. I like it when a book seems to have a stronger male POV – or one that's both parts equal to the male and female perspective. I read a chapter in a book the other day that seems like it may trend more towards the hero's POV since the book started with him. That is even a rarity.

      LOVED the cast – they were all AWESOME. I'll definitely watch the rest of the movies if they ever make a sequel especially if the principle cast returns! ;)

    2. I suspect that's why the book got published in the first place — it had a male point of view for once! I tend to gravitate toward male narrators more, because I'm not very emotional. But this kid totally was! So I didn't buy him in the book as a guy at all. :D

      Doubt another movie will be made — this one was a big financial loss for the studio. :(

    3. I like both narrator voices but would like more authors to consider the male POV – or at least give him equal page time. LOL, I wouldn't like a whiny/emotional dude – or not one who is recklessly so. ;)

      You are likely right. Wish they would – just to see what came next!

    4. … I'd tell you what happens next, but I snored my way through the second book like the first. I guess you could always look up the plot on Wikipedia and save yourself 1500+ pages. ;)

    5. Excellent idea. Who needs all that excess information!? ;)

      I set my book down for a while last night while in bed and ended up falling asleep! Weird since I am loving the novel. Hope I'll be able to finish it today. *hoping*

  2. The book was flat out boring to me and I don't even think I finished it sadly. The trailers for the film looked interesting though. I do love Emmy Rossum and since you somewhat enjoyed it, I might give it a shot. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Good to know, Renee. I've considered reading the book… (Meant too prior to seeing the movie.) Now I am not wild about reading it. When the movie ended, I was pretty ho-hum about the film and didn't care a wit but as I wrote this review, things were brought to mind and I ended up liking it better while reflecting on it – perhaps I'll even rent it again sometime.

      Let me know what you think if you decide to see it. I'd enjoy your perspective. :)

    1. That was a nice switch, Carlyn! Since the male perspective is often second to the girl, it offered a "new" angle. Though I didn't love the movie when the credits rolled, the more I've thought about it, the more I've liked it. Glad you enjoyed the movie. :)

      Yes, the cast *was* AWESOME!

  3. As always a thorough and detailed review. I've been curious about this film for awhile, but haven't yet seen it. I quickly dismissed it after seeing the trailer, thinking of the film as a replacement for Twilight. But I've been hearing some good things about it since then and it sparked more interest. Thanks for the review and the sweet comment today!

    1. Thanks for reading the review, Leah. :)

      I think probably in some sense, filmmakers did hope for this to "replace" Twilight or at least to reach its popularity. Sadly this movie flopped at the box office. It dares to be a little different (and certainly has a less annoying heroine from what I know of Twilight), but audiences didn't embrace it.

      Hope you enjoy the film if you see it. :)

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