The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses a YA movie date trifecta: Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy and City of Bones. All three are available to watch in the comfort of your own home! Andrew gives a rundown of each film and then I briefly give my thoughts on the movie vs. the book.
Local boy Ethan develops a crush on Lena, a mysterious teen girl who moves to his small Southern town. She and her family are all witches, and when she turns sixteen in a couple months, she’ll be forced to choose between her light and dark sides. Lena’s romance with Ethan provides her with a sense of normalcy, but makes her ultimate conversion that much harder. I found this enjoyable and compelling enough, though a bit overlong. Lena and Ethan have genuine chemistry and their playful scenes together are a highlight. Perhaps most notable is the cast: Oscar winners Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson as Lena’s family and Oscar nominee Viola Davis as a friendly seer and archivist. Since Thompson portrays a powerful witch hiding out in the body of a local Christian woman, she gets to play a marvelous range from fussy to lusty, and those scenes are a blast.
The tone is lightly comic throughout, which I appreciated (stories like this that take themselves too seriously can be awful); with its Gothic feel and wacky family antics it reminded me of Tim Burton’s adaptation of Dark Shadows. The consequences of Lena turning dark aren’t explored—will she just be mean?—so the stakes are never suitably high for us to worry much. But this supernatural tale with a strong Southern feel—there’s a Civil War reenactment, even—is diverting and fun. (Andrew)
By the Book: It’s been so long since I’ve read this book that some of the details are fuzzy, but for the most part I think the movie gets the tone right. The book, at almost 600 pages, is on the slow side, so I appreciate that the movie has a quicker pace and more humor. Some characters are omitted like Marion the librarian (Amma plays double duty as Ethan’s protector and the librarian) and the ending of the film is different than the book. And where is all that “Sixteen Moons” stuff? (Lucy)
Where to Watch: HBO, HBOGo or DVD.
At a boarding school in the countryside, we encounter three levels of vampires—the mortal Moroi; their protectors, the halfbreed Dhampir; and the evil Strigoi undead. Dhampir Rose has been allowing her Moroi master Princess Lissa to feed on her blood illegally, creating a psychic bond between them. But Rose also grows attached to her mentor Dimitri, who’s training her to be a better bodyguard. Plus there’s the usual bickering and infighting between her snooty classmates—this is high school, after all. What’s a halfbreed guardian girl to do?
The sheer density of information in the first half-hour of this film is overwhelming. With new characters, rules, and backstory being introduced every minute or two, it feels like you’re watching a late-season episode of a TV series. Yet the clues are there, and in spite of myself I got the gist of things pretty well. This is a very funny film, intentionally so; the fast-paced, hip, and bitchy dialogue style is kind of Mean Girls/Heathers meets Scott Pilgrim. Zoey Deutch is superb as the cocky yet vulnerable Rose, and her look and performance reminded me strongly of Ellen Page (Juno). The brisk pace, complex rules, and twisted humor make this film’s world entertaining to inhabit. (Andrew)
By the Book: I’ve invested a lot of time in reading these books so it broke my heart when this movie got such bad reviews, and I couldn’t make myself go see it in the theaters. Honestly, of the three films, we both liked this one the best though. On the positive side, the tone of the film is not as satiric as the trailers led me to believe. However, I hoped that the filmmakers behind Heathers and Mean Girls would bring some teen movie cred to the table, and the end result doesn’t really compare. Regarding the casting, Rose is feisty and snarky and looks the part- this is her film for better or worse. Rose’s blood sister Lissa is admittedly not my favorite book character, but movie Lissa has a little more fire to her. The Dimitri and Rose romance didn’t really work for me in the film and was hard to watch. I actually preferred Christian’s scenes so something was not right there. Overall though, the film is a fun watch on the small screen, and maybe would work better as a TV series than a feature film. (Lucy)
Where to Watch: Available on iTunes now as an HD Digital Download. DVD release date: May 20
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
In New York City (Brooklyn, perhaps), teenage Clary begins to sketch a mystical rune over and over and begins to see people others cannot. After her mother Jocelyn is kidnapped by forces wishing to reclaim a powerful Mortal Cup, Clary is rescued by Jace and learns they are both Shadowhunters, demon-slaying warriors. Clary must learn to master her skills and find the Cup to protect herself and perhaps save her missing mother.
After exciting opening scenes as Jocelyn is kidnapped and Clary witnesses an otherwise unseen murder, the film hits a slow, boring patch. Jace escorts Clary and her hipster comedy boyfriend Adam from one ponderous Gothic interior to another, where pompous figures reveal shreds of Clary’s backstory. But soon the thrills return with an epic vampire-werewolf battle. Once the Mortal Cup’s location is found, the second half of the film features nonstop thrills and battle action; elsewhere Clary and Jace’s growing romance hits an unexpected snag. I fell asleep when Lucy and I saw this in the theatre last year, and I’m glad we revisited it; it’s actually a cool and engaging film with a memorable female protagonist. (Andrew)
By the Book: We saw this film in the theaters and kind of hated it, but it works a little better on the small screen. Like Beautiful Creatures, City of Bones is one long book, with a lot of info to pack into a two-hour film. The film moves faster than the book, but the pacing is still a little slower than it should be. The casting is OK, and Lily Collins certainly looks the part. I liked Simon more in the movie (and he doesn’t turn into a rat, which is probably for the best.) I do wish there was more of fan-favorite Magnus Bane. Overall, stick to the book with this one. (Lucy)
Where to Watch: Starz or DVD
Have you seen any of these movies? How do you think they compare to the books?