David and I went to see Beautiful Creatures on opening day, so Valentine’s day. Initially I was going to write the comparison on Saturday, but felt that I needed a bit more time to explore the differences. Part of the reason for this is that I was a bit conflicted about the ending of the movie. It was going good with some small differences, but then it got toward the end and I almost felt like I had read the wrong book or need to read further in the series.
This is by no means to say that I did not thoroughly enjoy both reading the book and watching the movie. They both tell the basic story of Lena Duchannes and Ethan Wate. A girl with powers she doesn’t fully understand and a curse that could decide her future forever, and a boy who grew up in a small town in the south where nothing ever seems to change. The love story between Lena and Ethan, and the circumstances surrounding their relationship, remains true, but even though they get to the same place, the journey is a little different. (Plenty of SPOILERS for both the book and movie Beautiful Creatures)
In the Beginning
So the movie starts very similar to the book. Ethan Wate is the narrator of the story, living in small town of Gatlin. He is having dreams of the same girl night after night and even though it sounds crazy, he is falling in love with this girl from the dream. Now the movie does make the dream very different from the book because in the book he is trying to save her and ends up gripping on to the girl’s arm. He then usually wakes up with evidence of the dream in his bed, dirt, water, etc. He just tries to ignore it because it is just too crazy to think about.
Now this is a subtle change and there are a lot of those little changes toward the beginning of the story. Where the locket is found is different, when the meeting about Lena occurs is different, when they discover who Sarafine is hiding in is different, the date of Lena’s birthday, Ethan is supposed to be on the basketball team, etc. These are all differences that are small, but make sense from a time management perspective of a movie.
Some of the bigger differences are things such as combining two of the characters. Amma, in the book, is the Wate housekeeper who has been with the Wate family since Ethan’s father was a boy. Amma is like a grandmother to Ethan and she is the one who has been taking care of them especially since the mother died. Marian, in the book, is the librarian, of both the caster library and regular library.
Combining these two characters makes sense because you only have so much time to introduce characters, so if you need to have the part of Amma and the librarian it works to make them into one character.
Early on they do keep many things the same. The windows breaking in the classroom, the numbers written on Lena’s hand. I thought they did a fabulous job with Ridley and the introduction of her character. How she got Ethan to show up to the house uninvited and used him to gain entrance to the house, then the fight between Ridley and Lena really was right out of the book.
Even the description of the house, from the outside to the inside was incredibly spot on. I would have to watch it again, but it would almost be neat if every time Ethan went to the house it was different, because that would be very fitting from the book.
Some of these similarities and spot-on details I think were what made the differences in the end so unsettling.
In the End
In the book, Lena and Ethan are in this struggle together. They learn about Genevieve and Ethan (Lena and Ethan’s ancestors) and find out the curse occurred because Genevieve tried to bring Ethan back to life. Which is very dark magic and the only way to do something like that is with a terrible cost, thus a curse on all women of the Duchannes line.
Lena and Ethan start searching everywhere and eventually discover the Caster Library running right under Gatlin. In the movie, the library is open every evening, in the book, it is only open on days when everything else is closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and other local holidays. So they have a very limited time to spend in the library, but spend as much time as they can there. Until they discover information about the Book of Moons, which is the book that Genevieve used to cast the spell.
In the movie the book is just in the library, but in the book that book has been missing ever since Genevieve used it to bring back Ethan. Lena and Ethan find it buried in the Greenbrier crypt, which is the same place they had found the locket. Once they find the book, as in the movie, the pour over the information trying to help lead them somewhere. Lena gets frustrated and even tries to break up with Ethan once, but she loves him too much to keep it up.
In the movie they make it that Lena discovers that to break the curse she must kill someone she loves. She assumes that this is Ethan, and so thinking there is more than one way to die, she takes away Ethan’s memory of her. So from here on out Lena is alone and faces the final claiming and her birthday alone. She still has a final confrontation with her mother (Sarafine) and Uncle Macon still dies (paying the price for the curse), but this entire time Ethan doesn’t know what is happening.
Now the book, Ethan is with Lena to the end and every day counts down and they do not discover anything. Ethan actually learns that his mother was helping Macon to research the issue, and through a series of clues he discovers her findings which simply state “Claim Yourself”. Of course Lena and Ethan have no idea what this means and time just keeps ticking away even though Ethan never gives up.
Lena’s birthday comes and Sarafine has a plan to separate Lena and Ethan, because their connection helps to protect them both. The way the confrontation between Lena and her mother happens is much more epic in the book. Although, in the book we are still living everything from Ethan’s perspective so we do not quite see or understand everything that goes on.
The biggest difference is around the claiming. In the movie they say she has to break the curse, in the book Sarafine explains that Lena is the one to end the curse, but she must claim herself. The downside is that whatever side she does claim, she kills off the other side in her family. So if she chooses light all the dark casters will die include Uncle Macon, but if she chooses dark all the light casters will die (so, the family that she knows and loves).
It is an impossible choice, which is why – as in the movie – Lena makes the moon go away. Amma comments that no moon means no claiming. The book leaves it off that the claiming is not necessarily gone, but that she has bought herself more time. I am not quite sure what they were trying to indicate with the end of the movie, is she a balance of light and dark or because the curse got lifted because of Macon’s death is she still deciding?
The movie hints at Ethan getting his memories back and going back to Lena, but one thing I loved about the book was the strength of their bond and how the power of that bond protected them both. With Ethan being out of the loop for the third act it just made the ending feel very different. It also left us without a narrator for a long stretch of time.
Now part of the reason I question about whether I read the right thing or enough is that there are two more books in the series. I am wondering if they took elements from the other books and put it into the movie. Are they planning to make just the one movie, because it works very well as a stand alone, or is it supposed to try and be a series?
Either way, both the book and the movie are highly recommended, but if I had to make a choice I liked the book better. It could just go into so much more detail and spend more time with a very complex world and system.