Friday, March 1, 2013

Beautiful Creatures - Book vs. Movie

Beautiful Creatures is the first book in a widely popular young adult paranormal romance series written by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. 

And it is now a major motion picture from Warner Brothers.  Richard LaGravenese directed the film and adapted the book to the screenplay.   Admittedly, this is a very long and complex story to adapt to film, but so many changes were made that the film falls far short of the book.

Frankly, I have been trying to not to read more YA, but when the film came out I decided to read the book.  I was not yet all the way through the book when I saw the film.  Since the film was so much different than the movie, it really didn't matter much whether I had finished the book or not.

So how do you make a bad movie with Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons?   I suppose that decisions had to be made to streamline the story for film, but here is what bothered me the most.

***Spoiler Alert*** from here on out---

The dark and tragic background of Ethan is completely left out, and he is turned into a simple southern, country boy who is looking to escape his small town roots.  But Ethan is so much more than that.  Both of his parents are university professors, and they have diligently worked to remove any southern accent from his speech.  So the constant "stupid hick" sound of Ethan, small town southern boy, in the movie is not the basis or voice of the book at all.   His mother is recently deceased and his father has completely lost it due to her death, so he is being raised by a defacto grandmother of no actual relation.

The movie seems to mash together the characters of Amma and Marian into some completely different person.  I find this particularly disturbing.  Amma is a voodoo practicing, classic older Southern woman.  Marian is an exotic, formally educated liberal transplant to Gatlin.  What the film ended up with is just some nondescript person of color character without any of the distinct eccentricities of either character from the book, which definitely adds texture to the story.  These characters really emphasize diverse aspects of Southern culture that make the story setting so cool, and without them all the characters could be in a small town anywhere in America.  We are left merely with accents as signifiers of place and local.

Ridley is completely different.  She is blond and pink hair modern urban super-sexy-- Avril Lavigne style among others-- and sucking on a lollipop to make mortals do her bidding.

And what happened to Macon?  Jeremy Irons was a great casting choice.  Too bad he didn't have the real character to work with.  He become a sinister 2-dimensional bad guy, not the dream-sucking vampire trying to look out for Lena's best interests.

It would have been cool to see Ravenwood change interiors like it does in the book.  But maybe that was prohibitively expensive.  Though in that way Ravenwood itself becomes a character in the book, reflecting moods and foreshadowing events.

And where's that magical, mystical connection between Ethan and Lena?  It was supposed to be more than sexual chemistry.  All the connecting dreams and kelting?

Oh, no!  Not the ending!  It changed so much that I don't know where to start.  It doesn't even seem like the same story.  It certainly didn't end the same.

 Jean Trinh talks about the changes that bothered her in The Daily Beast. 
Jean Trinh
Jean Trinh

It's hard to say if I would have enjoyed the movie more without the foreknowledge of the book.  Some of the same characters are still there, in name anyway.  And there is a witch.  And (a slightly older) boy who falls in love with her.  In the Southern United States.  I'm just not sure if that's enough to make it the same story or not.

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