Next big movie franchise

By on February 26, 2013

In the post-Twilight landscape, Hollywood has been scrambling to find something to fill the void left by that near-inexplicably popular franchise. They tried to sell The Hunger Games as a viable alternative and though certainly successful, anyone familiar with the books or even just the movie knows that the two have next to nothing in common. That series lacks much in the way of romance or supernatural, for that matter, being more of a gritty dystopian fantasy than anything even remotelyTwilight-esque.

Zoey Deutch stars as Emily Asher in Robert LaGravenese's Beautiful Creatures. Tom Sorenson/Wikimedia Commons

Zoey Deutch stars as Emily Asher in Robert LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures. Tom Sorenson/Wikimedia Commons

Warm Bodies–though a hit and likewise based on a popular young adult novel–had the supernatural aspect and the romantic angle, but let’s face it: zombies aren’t sexy. Yes, both zombies and vampires are technically the undead, but zombies just don’t lend themselves readily to romance.

Though television took a stab at the subgenre of occult-driven fantasy with CW’s The Secret Circle, the underappreciated series never quite took off. Enter “Beautiful Creatures” on the big screen, another adaptation of a young adult novel by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, which has four books in the series thus far, so it lends itself perfectly to a potential Twilight-type franchise.

However, in order for that to happen, the first film has to catch on and it remains to be seen whether that will be the case. So far, the film has done decent if not unspectacularly at the box office, grossing a little over $10 million in its first week and nearly $20 million worldwide. The budget is estimated around $60 million, though, so things had better progress in a positive way sooner than later if an ongoing series is to happen.

On the plus side, it wouldn’t be the first movie to do poorly in theaters only to be a success on home video. It could even potentially give rise to a franchise. For instance, films based on the Y/A series The Chronicles of Narnia and Percy Jackson did well enough on DVD and the like to warrant more; even if it seems unlikely that either will get through all the books in their respective series. I suspect that Beautiful Creatures will meet a similar fate, which is almost too bad, as it’s better than either of those stabs at being a new hit franchise.
Those films are actually better points of comparison than Twilight as well, as Creatures is more akin to stuff of that nature- which is to say, more in the vein of the Harry Potter series. In fact, Creatures is essentially Twilight-meets-Harry Potter when all is said and done.

The film revolves a young female protagonist, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion), a budding witch–or in the world of the books/movies, a “caster.” Upon her sixteenth birthday, she will come into her own as a caster, with the result being that she will either become a purveyor of light or dark magic- and not by choice. Her cousin and mother were both dark casters, her father light- but who would she take after?

Complicating matters is, of course, an impetuous and determined local boy, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich, looking like a Beat Poet) who captures her heart. The problem there? A curse on Lena’s family which says that whoever she loves will die and if she uses her powers to revive him, she’ll automatically turn bad in the process. How can she possibly let the boy she loves die if she can do something about it?

The way the film deals with these issues is the meat of the story, and also what makes it fascinating. The ending is pretty clever and doesn’t feel like a cheat, despite the seemingly unwinnable circumstances. That’s not to necessarily say there’s a happily ever after- no spoilers here- but you definitely do wonder how these two lovebirds are going to get out of this mess, and the film does a good job of dealing that in a logical, intelligent way.

The two leads are essentially newcomers yet they perform excellently. They are definitely actors to watch in the future, regardless of how much success this particular movie attains. The supporting cast is nothing short of fantastic, and filled to the brim with award-winners and nominees, including Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson (herself a Harry Potter-vet), Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Margo Martindale.

As a Southerner, I really appreciated the very authentic colors and well-done accents. So often this kind of thing is done in such a clichéd and overblown fashion that you really learn to appreciate it when someone gets it right. It also helps the film achieve a feel of its own that separates it from the aforementioned pack of films, which it will inevitably be compared and contrasted with. I have a feeling this very asset will cause this film to be most popular in Southern theaters and homes.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see if this becomes a full-blown franchise, but I will say this: I’d see another one readily, and I can’t say that for all of the above, save The Hunger Games. I found the caster history and overall back-story fascinating enough that I might even seek out the books even if they don’t do another one. The effects were pretty neat too, making this the rare non-3D film that might have actually benefitted from that approach. If you’re looking for a viable alternative to supernaturally-themed teen flicks not featuring vampires, you could do a lot worse.

Mark Trammell
Staff Writer

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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