So I’ve just finished watching (well, rewatching, I’ve seen it before), the movie Beautiful Creatures.
It backdates to 2013, and if it hadn’t been hot on the heels of Twilight and Hunger Games, may very well have made more of a splash – that is, until the last fifteen minutes of storytelling forget about narrative structure, and leave the movie as a hot mess.
It should be a great tale – small-town boy meets well-travelled girl. They fall in love. But she is a witch (excuse me – we prefer to be called ‘casters’) – and when she turns sixteen, she will be claimed by the dark or the light.
However, there is a curse, which means she will be claimed by the dark unless they can find a way to reverse the curse.
Which they do – but it’s pretty dire – someone she loves has to die. And on top of that, her mother is pure darkness and is plotting to make it so she does not really have a choice.
The story is standard young adult fantasy fare, and I usually love them. But when I watched Beautiful Creatures for the second time, I wanted to know what messed the story up for me, so I particularly paid attention to where the story wandered away from the proper structure. (This is the bane of all authors – we end up dissecting all the books and movies we watch instead of just enjoying them for what they are.)
The movie was good – it truly was – right up until the time the girl Lena, reaches her sixteenth birthday and is set up for the big finale. Will she kill Ethan (the guy)? Will she turn dark or light? Will her mother (dark) win over her uncle (light)? And more importantly (because this is a love story), how does the love storyline play out?
And the problem is: Nothing is properly resolved:
- Lena lets Ethan go – wipes his mind of her; in a way, she ‘kills’ him. Apparently she is the only one who doesn’t know that won’t work.
- Ethan is shot, by his friend who is put under a spell to do so. But the audience are left wondering why Ethan still needed to die.
- Turns out that the uncle took Ethan’s place using a cloaking spell, so he died instead. Which broke the curse. But was dissatisfying somehow. I’m still mulling that one over. I think it’s something to do with how the curse was presented in the first place. Perhaps a third viewing will give me more insight on that one.
- Her mother tries to turn her to the dark side – now, this is where the movie totally fell apart – apparently, Lena is not claimed by either light or dark but somehow has power over both. There is no reasoning behind this, no leadup, no clues, it just happens. And there’s no fanfare to announce it. It just happens. And then there she is, facing off against her mother.
- Battle with the Big Bad (mother) is a non-event. There is no battle. The mother falls over and dies.
- Lena does not go running to Ethan. Instead, she agrees that love between a mortal and a caster is doomed to failure, and accepts her heartbreak. This would have been an acceptable ending. She has sacrificed for the greater good. Balance is restored to the world. Ethan goes off to college.
- EXCEPT – right at the very last moment he remembers and jumps out of the car on its way to college and shouts “Lena!”
- And that’s the end.
This needed a The Notebook-style run-together-and-kiss scene to finish. Stopping it when it did left the audience (me) without end-of-film feels. We needed to know when Ethan came running back into town that Lena wasn’t going to reject him for her higher principles, that love conquered all.
Alternatively, they could have left it at Lena making the sacrifice of her love to keep balance in the world. That would have been bittersweet, but would have been okay.
Most fantasy movies (and, really most movies) have plots that are pretty thin, but we are prepared to suspend reality for the sake of the feels at the end. Because the feels weren’t delivered, all the other plot points that weren’t fully delivered were more apparent. Moviegoers will forgive much when they are presented with a satisfying ending.
And that’s the real issue here. The ending wasn’t satisfying.
Beautiful Creatures was beautiful – but flawed.