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Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures is a gushy teen romance with a paranormal bent. It’s a lot like the Twilight franchise in many ways, with love taking precedence as major issues in the paranormal community pop up. Casters (rather than “witches) have less of a cult following than vampires at the moment, but the idea is the same.
Luckily, Richard LaGravanese’s film takes the lush Southern backdrop, as well as the basic plot and best ideas from its novel counterpart and turns Beautiful Creatures into a film that never takes itself too seriously and in doing so, manages to have appeal for many different audiences. I had a fairly biased idea of what I would be getting when seeing the film, and I’m happy to say that Beautiful Creatures was nothing like what I expected from bringing this particular novel to life on the big screen.
Following are the eleven biggest changes I noticed in my screening of Beautiful Creatures. Feel free to remark on any changes you feel may have been more noticeable. There are many spoilers in the Beautiful Creatures book to movie comparison. Do not delve in if you want the film to be a surprise. .
There are more cute conversations between Ethan and Lena. Part of this is due to the movie not being told entirely in Ethan’s perspective and part of this is due to Richard LaGravanese’s screenplay, which implements more humor. Either way, Lena and, especially, Ethan come across as far more likeable individuals, as well as a relationship worth fighting for.
Ethan’s not a basketball ball player. Really, this isn’t a giant hole in the plot, but it does mean he is less connected to his school and his classmates. We get the feeling at the beginning of the book, via Emily, that he’s still pretty popular, but because there is no basketball, it’s easier for Ethan to spend time getting to know Lena and ignore the townspeople’s cruel remarks.
We meet Sarafine very early. In fact, much of the mystery of Lena’s birthday is cut out in favor of explaining to audiences early on that as a Duchannes, she is cursed and must either accept dark magic or light magic when it is thrust upon her at age 16. This actually takes a little bit of the fun out of wondering what is wrong with Link’s mother, but it does provide an opportunity for Macon and Sarafine to verbally banter.
Lena and Ethan can’t communicate telepathically. Mind chats worked really well during the book, because it helped the two to communicate while other stuff was going on. However, getting that device across without the written word would probably have been really strange and the movie ultimately opts for the couple to communicate normally.
Amma takes on many roles. She’s still Ethan’s housekeeper, but to streamline plots, she also plays the librarian, and speaking of the library, it’s open whenever and not just on holidays. Like in the book, Amma still cooks and cares for Ethan, as well as provides protection, but we lose her crosswords and her large vocabulary.
To streamline the plot, Beautiful Creatures features fewer characters. Most notably, Macon’s shadow, Boo Radley, is missing, as well as Marian Ashcroft, the librarian. Fans of the book may also miss Ethan’s ancient aunts, cousin Ryan, and Macon’s brother. This changes plenty of the details, but at its core, Beautiful Creatures follows the same basic plot.
We’re not subjected to the mean girls school dance plotline. Thank God, too, as most other teen movies feature that cliché where the bullied girl gets something dumped on her or is otherwise publicly humiliated when she’s all dressed up for the dance. Lena still has catty Emily and her posse to deal with, but I’d much rather see ridiculous one-liners than watch Lena cry after having fake snow mix poured over her.
Ethan’s father is also missing from the story. Ethan briefly mentions he’s locked himself in the study at the beginning, but we never see him, which means we never get the harrowing scene where we see how messed up Ethan’s home life truly is, and how his father has been crazily scribbling on pieces of paper rather than even attempting to write a book. It’s a shame, because that’s one of the best parts of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s book.
Lena spells Ethan to forget her. There’s a good chunk of the movie where the couple are separated by Lena’s design. This helps lead to an explosive and very different ending than the one in the book. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better, but it works for the film.
Lena’s birthday party never happens. Ridley still seduces Link, but luckily there’s no bad band to contend with. Instead of the ridiculous party plotline, LaGravanese’s script introduces an intricate plot involving the Civil War reenactment and a bullet. If it sounds like edge of your seat stuff, it is.
The magic is even more vivid onscreen. Lena makes it snow on a warm day for Ethan and even brings in some tornadoes when the epic storm rolls in at the end. It’s all really pretty stuff, actually, which is a stark contrast to how dark most of the magic stuff comes across in the book.
Overall, I had a much more enjoyable time watching the Beautiful Creatures movie than reading the book. While the book is a slow, Southern story, the movie is quick and snappy, and even at its lengthy running time of over two hours, I found myself identifying with the campy fun of the film, throughout.