"Breaking Dawn - Part 2" continues to dominate the box office, but soon enough, it will only live on in the hearts and Blu-ray players of faithful Twihards everywhere. Come Valentine's Day weekend 2013, a new young adult phenomenon will hit the big screen -- one that may end up being better than the "Twilight" franchise, which never struck a favorable chord with critics the way "Harry Potter" or "The Hunger Games" did.

Based on the first in the five-book series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, "Beautiful Creatures" follows 16-year-old Ethan Wate, who lives in the small Southern town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where nothing ever changes and people still think of the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression." But on the first day of sophomore year, Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) meets the mysterious Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the niece of the town recluse (Jeremy Irons) and the literal girl of his dreams. As Ethan quickly discovers, Lena is no ordinary teenager, and their relationship isn't just based on attraction but a psychic connection that's destined to change their lives.

So bid farewell to dazzling vampires and hunky werewolves, and say hello to casters, seers and incubi (oh my). Here are five reasons "Beautiful Creatures" could be an even better movie franchise than "Twilight."

1. Prestigious Cast: The cast of "Beautiful Creatures" boasts two Academy Award winners (Irons and Emma Thompson), a two-time Oscar nominee (Viola Davis), a Golden Globe nominee (Emmy Rossum) and an Emmy winner ("Justified" star Margo Martindale). In fact, Irons was exactly who author Garcia envisioned as the elegant Macon Ravenswood when she and Stohl wrote the series: "I thought people were playing a joke on me," she said of finding out he had accepted the role. "He's who I always pictured in my mind as Macon."

2. Real Teenagers: As much as the Cullen clan pretended to be teens, they were all decades (if not more than a century) old immortal vampires (making Edward 107 years old). But the teens in "Beautiful Creatures" are just that -- actual adolescents. A major plot point in the story is that Lena will be claimed as either a Dark or a Light Caster on her 16th birthday. Despite being 16, Ethan -- who Garcia jokes is so sweet, because he's "the exact opposite of every guy Margie and I dated" -- is just as gentlemanly, self-sacrificing and swoon-worthy (in his sensitive, intelligent way) as Edward.

3. Fascinating Setting: "Beautiful Creatures" is a Southern Gothic yarn that takes place north of Charleston in the fictional town of Gatlin, where the pie is always made from scratch, the porch gossip spreads like wildfire and the secrets are heavier than the accents. Like Hogwarts and District 12, Gatlin is as much a character as the people who live in it. Tightly controlled by sons and daughters of the Confederacy, Gatlin isn't open to outsiders, especially those with secret powers like Lena Duchannes. Forks served a purpose (it was rainy and dark, so the Cullens could remain hidden from sunlight), but Gatlin -- and the land it inhabits -- is an integral part of Ethan and Lena's story.

4. Important Themes: One of the biggest complaints about the "Twilight" saga was the mixed messages the central relationship sent to young readers and audiences. In "Beautiful Creatures," there are many substantive themes that go beyond young love. If it's as true to the book's spirit as the authors believe it is, the film should explore the dangers of bigotry and prejudice, as well as closed-mindedness and conformity, while advocating for the importance of seeking knowledge and experiencing unconditional love (within family, not just romantically).

5. Broader Appeal: The book is written from the point of view of Ethan, and it's just as much about Ethan and Lena discovering the centuries-old secrets of both their town and their powers as it is about their blossoming relationship. Because it's not all about the kissing scenes, there's a greater chance for, you know, guys, to actually enjoy the paranormal adventure. Even adults who've never even heard of the books will want to see something directed by Richard LaGravanese (who also wrote the script) and stars such a distinguished ensemble. "Richard really got our story, so we trusted his vision for the movie," Stohl told us.
CATEGORIES Movies