Book to Film Adaptations: Beautiful Creatures

Hannah Walton-Hughes

It is a classic question that everyone asks: “Which did you enjoy more, the book or the film?” It is a tricky one, and it can spark all manner of debate and controversy. Films can often either enhance a book or let it down. Hannah Walton-Hughes comments on the 2013 film adaption of the 2009 novel Beautiful Creatures and discusses the ways in which the film does (and does not) do the story justice.

Beautiful Creatures (2009) is novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, adapted into a 2013 film, directed by Richard LaGravenese. The story follows Ethan Wate, a boy from a town where nothing of significance ever happens. That is until the mysterious outsider Lena Duchannes arrives, moving in with her uncle, the town’s own Boo Radley. Ethan soon discovers the truth about Lena: she is a Caster, with a life-altering decision ahead of her.

Beautiful Creatures was one of my teenage obsessions. A beautifully (no pun intended) crafted book about magic, teenage love, and adventure – everything needed to get you hooked on the plot and the characters. I read the first of the four book series prior to watching the movie so, as you can imagine, I approached it with high anticipation. In some ways, I have to say, I felt let down.

Like in the books, we very much get a sense of the kind, loyal, and slightly clueless narrator

Before I roast the film for its disloyalty to the book, I feel that I should point out its plentiful supply of good qualities, predominately the casting choices. Jeremy Irons epitomises the character of Uncle Macon as he is exactly how I pictured the character from the description in the book: sideburns, drawling voice, and sarcastic humour. Alden Ehrenreich also deserves a commendable mention for his portrayal of Ethan. Like in the books, we very much get a sense of the kind, loyal, and slightly clueless narrator.

However, the appearances of some of the characters are not even remotely similar in the film. Now, I completely understand that it is almost impossible to precisely match everything to its original description, but characters such as Ridley and Emily are consistently described as having blonde hair which is completely neglected in the film. Even more poignantly, the whole basis of Lena embracing powers of the Light is supposed to be represented by her having green eyes as opposed to gold. Yet, Alice Englert lights up the screen, not with eyes of emerald, but with eyes of brown!

Additionally, half of Lena’s family are entirely eliminated from the film. Her cousins, Reece (who happens to be one of my favourite characters in the book) and Riley are nowhere to be seen, and her other cousin, Larkin, is supposed to have a much more significant role than he does in the film. The eliminations do not stop there. Ethan’s dad, whilst referred to, is never actually seen nor are his three great aunts who undoubtedly would have brought a comedic relief to an incredibly dark movie overall. The gothic, sexualised, and intensely supernatural elements of the book are blown up and exaggerated for ‘cinematic value’.

The setting does the fictional location of Gatlin justice, despite the noticeable absence of named locations such as the Stop & Steal and the Dar-ee-Keen. Little touches such as these would have created a more authentic experience for me as a reader. Nevertheless, the narrow-minded, stuffy atmosphere of small-town Gatlin is still painfully maintained.

The studio’s original plan to adapt the next three books was cancelled, due to the poor reception of the first film

Whilst admittedly few and far between the plot changes are blatantly obvious, and you don’t have to have read the book closely to spot them. The whole wiping-of-memory incident towards the end (I won’t give too much away) never happened in the book, and I feel it contributes to a very open-ended and unsatisfactory conclusion to the film. Sadly, the studio’s original plan to adapt the next three books was cancelled, due to the poor reception of the first film at the box office.

I realise that I have probably given the impression that I dislike the movie of Beautiful Creatures. I don’t at all- it has some very good elements, and the casting choices and acting speak very well for it. As a writer myself, I am picky about book adaptations, and am not very lenient in terms of changes to the plot. Nevertheless, I have spent many a Halloween watching this movie, and whilst it is not the most divergent film that I have seen, it is also not the most loyal adaptation.

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Featured image courtesy of Bastian_Schmidt via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article video courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes Trailers via youtube.com. No changes were made to this video. 

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