Why Beautiful Creatures is not Twilight

The film version of the young adult fantasy novels Beautiful Creatures opens tomorrow.

The producers are no doubt attempting to capitalize on the success of the Twilight Saga touting the story as the next best thing to the teen vamp series. While this may help bring teens to the theater, it does the story a great injustice.

These Creatures are Whole.

Beautiful Creatures Book CoverIn the Twilight novels, the characters, particularly that of Bella Swan, are one-dimensional and lacking complex motivations. This is not so with Beautiful Creatures. While I don’t find the series on par with the great literary novels of our time, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have crafted real, multi-dimensional characters in a world rich with mythology. Even the smallest character has layers you might not expect.

The mythology is one of my favorite parts of the series. You can tell that Kami and Stohl carefully mapped out the attributes of each supernatural persona before diving into the meat of the story. Nothing feels like an afterthought.

It is clear, as well, that the side characters have separate lives outside of the central duo of Ethan and Lena. In some cases, we get solid background into their lives, in other cases, we only receive mere hints. In every case, we want to know more. You get the sense that the authors have an extensive back story for each character and maybe even a novella or two already penned for them.

You also get the sense that each character’s story is rich and full and tragic.

That understanding is important. Ethan and Lena do not act in a vacuum. Their journey is not really their own. There are a lot of players here and it’s important to have supporting characters whose decisions are informed by their own histories, rather than actions that merely propel the plot without any meaning.

This is a Story about Fate.

It cannot be doubted romance is threaded throughout the Caster Chronicles (of which Beautiful Creatures is a part). In fact, a romance gone awry is what sets the story in motion hundreds of years before Ethan and Lena begin their journey. But ultimately, the story is about the battle between good and evil.

This battle plays out in the side characters, as well. It is a universal battle. It’s true that in the film and book, Lena’s, a witch – aka caster, powers are predicted to be stronger than any caster before her, but her fate is not the only one that matters here.

Everyone’s fate is at stake and everyone battles to keep their humanity. Some lose. Some win.

Lena is not the Mary Sue that we see time and again in romantic fiction. She makes mistakes and people take to her to task for them more than once for them.

Again, teenage romance is at play here, but it often takes a backseat to the larger issue of good vs. evil and fighting to retain your identity against all odds.

This Story is about a Boy.

The novels are told from the perspective of Ethan Wate, a southern teenager who has no idea that he is a major player in a centuries old battle against good and evil. He also has no idea that members of his family are central to this battle.

The movie advertisements would have you believe this is the tale of a girl with a horrible destiny. And sure, there is a girl with a horrible destiny, but the central character is a boy with a life of tragedy both behind and in front of him.

In this way, the Caster Chronicles turn the young adult romantic fantasy genre on its head. It’s a genre full of girls swooning over demonic boys whom they hope to save from an evil fate. Here, it’s a story with some swooning, but both characters save each other and themselves – and again, they do this with the help of other supporting characters.

I am hesitant to see the movie. From the trailers, it looks like it focuses on romance more than the complicated lives of the characters. The excellent cast gives me hope, but then again, Jeremy Irons was in Dungeons and Dragons……

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