Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Beautiful Creatures (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Oh, Emma's not done just yet though. It turns out Lena's Claiming is going to happen on the most powerful solstice in 5000 years, which will make her more powerful than anyone and finally lead the Casters out of hiding, free from the oppression of the Muggles. Voldemort longs for a day when Casters can be their true selves without having to- wait, which movie is this? Oh, Beautiful Creatures? Okay, I was WONDERING when Voldemort got his nose to grow back.

Thelma or Louise arrives at the school, getting out of her car to reveal quite possibly the most ridiculous dress ever seen outside of a cosplay convention. Where do you even BUY a dress like that?  She walks up to Ethan and kisses him on the mouth, introducing herself as Lena's cousin Ridley. She is played by Emmy Rossum, an actress I'm not familiar with but I hear KILLS IT on the Showtime television show Shameless.

Ridley takes Ethan back to Ravenwood Manor to meet the rest of the family for a gathering they're having, as we see her kiss has bewitched Ethan so he can only do what she says. Macon is quite displeased to see Ridley but invites her to dinner nonetheless. The rest of the family starts showing up and they're all bizarre and/or goofy. The tone the movie has been working real hard to build is going right out the window in this scene, as it's just violently silly and out of place with everything they've done so far.

Ridley bitches everyone out for abandoning her when she turned Dark, dramatically taking off the sunglasses she's been wearing the entire time to show her Sith Eyes because CGI is cool. She makes mention of Lena's curse, saying it's already started.

Things only get worse as she and Lena get into a fight, causing the dinner table to levitate while they spin around the room with some HORRIBLE special effects. The rest of the family tries to half-heartedly put a stop to this nonsense while they eat, but the two cousins just keep spinning. This is one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing scenes I've ever seen.

Lena finally emerges victorious, hurling Ridley out the window. This breaks Ridley's enchantment on Ethan, as Lena worries her powers are getting more out of control the closer her birthday arrives. To take her mind off this and try to erase all memories of the bullshit we just saw, Ethan takes her out to see the movie Final Destination 6. Even though the posters show Final Destination 5, although this might be a joke because there's been a running gag about the theater always getting the movie titles wrong.

Link heads to the theater as well, but runs into Ridley instead who casts her spell on him. Inside, Lena finds the locket in Ethan's coat and activates its power again. They're transported back to the Civil War, where we see a soldier named Ethan Carter Wate get shot and killed. His lover, Genevieve Katherine Duchannes, uses her powers to bring him back to life but gets the Sith Eyes in the process, killing him again by snapping his neck. Well, that was a wasted effort!

Sarafine begins speaking to Lena directly, revealing she is her mother. This upsets Lena greatly, so Ethan takes her back to his place where Amma and Macon soon arrive for our Massive Exposition Reveal. Genevieve used a forbidden Caster spell to resurrect Ethan, which also caused a curse that devoured her soul to the Dark Side.

I'm lost here. What EXACTLY does the curse do? They've established that the Claiming can turn you to the Dark Side, is the curse just a more severe form of that? Does the curse make you super evil? Did the curse affect Ridley too, or is she just regular evil?

Macon believes Lena is strong enough to break the curse, but in order to do that she CANNOT see Ethan anymore because he can't risk Sarafine taking advantage of their lust- I mean “love”. Ah, so even if the Claiming made her Light the curse would still make her dark? What triggers the curse then? Hey, remember when it was revealed Amma could talk to the dead? What was the point of showing that?

Macon locks Lena away in Ravenwood as the weeks go by until it's Halloween. One night Ethan gets a visit from Mrs. Lincoln, and gee you think Macon would have at least WARNED Ethan about her. Lena was thinking ahead though, as we see she's cast an enchantment on the house that keeps Sarafine out. It's not strong enough though as she starts breaking through, Ethan jumping in his car and taking off.

He makes it to Ravenwood, stopped by another forcefield from seeing Lena. However he's able to break it because of... oh I don't know, could it be TRUE LOVE? They go to see Amma, who takes them underground to a series of tunnels she says connect the entire country. She tells them Gatlin is the capital of the Caster America, as it used to be Washington DC until Nancy Reagan made them move because she was the only mortal they were ever afraid of. Ha ha hah, that joke fits RIGHT IN with the target audience of this movie! Nancy Reagan was one of the Spice Girls, in case you're too young to get the reference.

They make their way to the hidden Caster library where Lena is “chosen” by the Book of Moons, a living book that contains the most powerful of Caster magics. Sadly it doesn't talk, because that would have REALLY been cheesily awesome. She spends weeks reading through the book trying to find a way to break the curse, as we see the numbers on her hand getting closer and closer to her birthday. She's growing darker and meaner in the process, but Ethan hangs in there because he “loves” her so much.

Nah, I'm being too harsh on these characters. Compared to Twilight or the Mortal Instruments, this is like the greatest love story of all time. Ethan and Lena each have their own interests (Ethan much more than Lena though), they talk to each other, they relate to each other, they do things together... like a REAL couple would. Sure they've only known each other a couple of months and are only naïve teenagers, but at this point I suppose I would believe they're in love.

Or maybe it is just lust, because the next scene has Ethan and Lena having sex in her car which isn't AT ALL creepy considering she's only fifteen. They don't actually show them having sex but it STRONGLY is implied. That is downright SHOCKING for a Young Adult movie, I'm not sure I can even think of one that actually goes this far.

Over another Lena research montage, Ethan talks to Amma about his mother. The film's been dropping hints the entire time that she and Macon had a thing, Amma admitting that they were very close but his mother still loved his father. This helps to explain why Macon strongly believes Casters shouldn't love mortals and well as why he's so hostile towards Ethan. Did someone say Severus Snape and Lily Potter? I thought someone just said Severus Snape and Lily Potter.

Lena FINALLY finds the answer in the book one night, the only way to break the curse is to have the one she loves die. She doesn't tell Ethan about this, but does tell Amma instead, saying there's other ways that someone can die. We learn what this means awhile later when Amma comes to Ethan's house to cook dinner, discovering he has no memory of ever speaking with Lena. That's fine and dandy, but did she also wipe the memories of EVERYONE ELSE in school so they forgot she was dating Ethan? You'd think after the hundredth time someone asked Ethan why he's not with Lena he might start wondering what's up.

They transition to a REALLY DEGRADING scene of a pastor at the church giving a sermon about sacrifice, saying it's a victory to give up something you love for something you love more than yourself. GEE FUCKING WHIZ, I WONDER IF THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE AN ALLUSION TO SOMETHING? This is textbook talking down to your audience right here, I don't even think Michael Bay is THIS bad.

We jump ahead to the Civil War reenactment, as Sarafine and Ridley have cooked up a plan to counteract Lena's sacrifice. Ridley manipulates the near-forgotten Link into shooting Ethan with a real bullet, which... doesn't make any fucking sense. The curse can ONLY be broken if the one she loves dies, so wouldn't killing Ethan BREAK THE CURSE? That is completely counterproductive to Sarafine's plan! I know they're counting on the death of Ethan being enough to turn her, but doing so INSTANTLY kills the backup plan. Lena immediately senses Ethan getting shot as she's nearby about to undergo her Claiming ritual as soon as the moon comes out.

She runs to his side, where Sarafine and Ridley are waiting to welcome her to the family. Lena summons a GIGANTIC storm as she starts turning Dark, but then Ethan changes into Macon in a pretty damn creative twist. Sarafine congratulates Macon for his subversion of the curse, but really did Lena love Macon? We only ever saw them bicker and yell at each other. Probably would have been a good call to, oh I don't know, ESTABLISH that.  Macon dies, his last words to Lena are to “claim herself”. Lena stands up and glares at her relatives, and GODDAMN if I wouldn't be running for the hills right now GTFO style.

Sarafine say the moon is now out and the Claiming is at hand, so Lena... gestures at the moon and makes it vanish? Um, no? Did she actually vaporize the moon, in which case the entire planet should be getting ripped apart by gravitational waves? Or did she just hide it behind the clouds, which would actually do nothing since it's still TIME for the ritual? Or are Casters part werewolf, where the moon actually has to be VISIBLE for the Claiming to work?

Ridley takes my advice and books it, but Sarafine starts her ground, barking out the good ol' “we're more alike than you'd care to admit” chestnut because this movie has gone on WAY too long without a cliché. Declaring it's a new world that “ain't all Dark and ain't all Light” in her shittiest Southern accent, Lena expels Sarafine from Mrs. Lincoln, turning her spirit form into... a bunch of vines? Alright, that works. So... is Lena good now? Did the Claiming actually happen, or...?

We cut to six months later, where Ethan and Link are preparing to take a road trip to New York to check out colleges there. He stops at the library to say goodbye to Amma, noticing Lena sitting alone at a table. He introduces himself, saying he always liked the poetry she wrote in Creative Writing class. He notices she's reading the Bukowski book from earlier as they have a very similar conversation to the first one they had. Okay that's great and all, just keep going now Ethan. You have the potential for a very good ending, don't fuck this up.

Lena gives him the book as a present for leaving Gatlin, Ethan thanking her as he leaves. He and Link drive away, Ethan starting to read from the book and don't you DARE start remembering stuff. Link also asks if they can go see his mother at the sanatorium, as I guess she didn't escape her possession with Sarafine wholly intact. That's pretty sad actually, she was a terrible stereotype but didn't deserve that.

Amma and Lena go down to the Caster library, where one of Lena's eyes is going Sith. ...the hell? The Claiming has long since passed! The two friends drive on, passing the spot where Ethan and Lena maybe had sex. That's okay, now just KEEP DRIVING. You are SO CLOSE! This triggers all of Ethan's memories as the car comes screeching to a halt and he jumps out, yelling Lena's name. FUCK! Back at the library Lena looks up, having heard this due to the bond they share. Her Sith eye reverts back to normal. Wait, what?

Cue the credits.

Fuck that ending!  God, they were SO close to having one of the better endings I've seen in recent memory, and they just had to go and drop the ball hard.  Yeah yeah, I know Sequel Bait and all that... but come on, this movie's NOT getting a sequel.

Boy did this EVER feel like it was adapted from a book. And by adapted I mean they wrote plot points from the book on a wall and threw darts to randomly select them. There is so much stuff that is set up that just goes NOWHERE, or is so poorly explained you wonder why it didn't end up on the editing room floor.

Judging from what I've read online the movie barely follows the book at all, changing about every major plot point AND the ending. Hell, in the book Ethan and Lena couldn't even TOUCH without Ethan getting electrocuted. Add in that this was a very cheap looking movie and the fact this came out three months after The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 had used up the last of the public's tolerance for supernatural teen romances and you have a recipe for a movie that not many people wanted to see.

But you know what? This is BY FAR one of the better Young Adult movies I've seen in the post-Twilight era. Despite their WRETCHED Southern accents (something I literally can't emphasize enough how bad they all were), both are leads are pretty damn endearing and I gave a damn about BOTH of them. Ethan's actor, Alden Ehrenreich, was particularly charismatic and had a very natural sense of humour about him. I can't even NAME a movie in this genre where I could say nice things about the lead couple.

The story is a right fair mess in large sections and has WAY too many cliches, but it's paced well for the most part where I was kept interested almost the entire time despite this having an excessively too long run time. It's amazing to contrast this against something like Transformers where the majority of both movies are just humans standing around talking, but in this one they actually had something interesting to say so I didn't fall asleep.

All in all, this is a movie I can actually recommend if you have any interest in the supernatural teen romance genre, which... probably isn't anyone reading this. I will say this though: your life is INCOMPLETE until you see how batshit crazy Emma Thompson is in this movie. Now for the REAL test, how this movie fares up against the Twilight Meter!

Step One. Start off with a completely bland boring uninteresting dark haired young woman who starts off as nothing special. She has to be a loner who only has one interest/hobby in her life.

This almost perfectly describes Lena, although there was something special about her as she had a huge destiny looming ahead of her. The HUGE difference though is she wasn't the star of the movie, so I am awarding no points for a score of 0/7.

Step Two. She will have a single male best friend that she only thinks of “as a friend or like a brother”. He, of course, pines for her daily to love him like he secretly loves her.

Nope, nothing of the sort. No points to keep the score at 0/7.

Step Three. Have her suddenly become the most important person in the world through a combination of the supernatural, a hidden talent she didn't know she had, or an indomitable will.

I'll give a point for this one, as Lena's upcoming Sweet Sixteen did make her the most important person in the world. +1 point for a score of 1/7.

Step Four. Make sure she only has one parent, usually a mother but that's flexible. The other parent is gone either through divorce, death, or mysteriously vanishing when she was young.

That would be Sarafine, along with Lena's never mentioned father. This also applies to Ethan, as he had a father but no mother. +1 point for a score of 2/7.

Step Five. Throw her into a Love Triangle with two men, one of whom is the aforementioned best friend she's known her entire life and the other an enigmatic stranger she instantly prefers. Bonus if the stranger is introduced saving her life.

Not even a corner of a Love Triangle. AMAZING! No points for a score of 2/7.

Step Six. Add a villain. The villain isn't important at all so we don't need any kind of development for him. In fact, the more faceless and generic he is the better because that's just taking time away from the Love Triangle.

While she didn't get Martin Scorsese-levels of character development, Sarafine was established and had a defined goal she was working to to achieve, even if she went about it in a REALLY stupid scheme. No points for a score of 2/7.

Step Seven. Make sure whatever world changing events going on in the story are minimized so they can take a backseat to the Love Triangle.

No Love Triangle and Lena's Claiming took center stage over her relationship with Ethan. No points awarded for a final score of 2/7.

0: Congratulations! Your fictional world is so original and creative it's almost guaranteed it'll get ignored by mainstream audiences!

1 – 2: A very nice breath of fresh air, it was great to see a unique spin on well worn material.

3 – 4: I feel like I've seen this a million times already, and will see it a million more.

5 – 6: Seriously, why even bother making this when you should have just been working on new features for Twilight: The Tenth Anniversary Blu-Ray?

7: You should be expecting a call from Stephenie Meyer's lawyers ANY minute now.