I thought I’d start out my journey of comparing and contrasting Twilight with Beautiful Creatures by looking at the similar introductions of their two leads. Bella Swan and Ethan Wate are the mortal, non-mystical teenagers, who are the main POV characters in their respective films.
Bella’s voiceover starts with “I’ve never given much thought to how I would die, but dying in the place of someone I love seems like a good way to go,” which is a slightly changed version of what she will say later in the movie, leading into the climax. Overlaying this line are images of a blurry figure (Edward) chasing and capturing a deer.
It’s a subversion of expectation because, in this instance, Bella is actually talking about leaving her life with her mom in Arizona, not a real death. Bella’s voiceover goes on to introduce us to the small town of Forks, and her history with it. All the while she is clutching a small cactus representing the life in Arizona that she already misses.
In Beautiful Creatures, Ethan describes a dream that’s been haunting him all summer. A mysterious girl standing at the top of a hill, calling out to him.
“. . . I know her like I’ve known her all my life. And it feels like something terrible’s gonna happen when I reach her, but at the same time, I’m not scared at all. I want her; no matter what happens. But I never get to her and then I die.”
Ethan, having just been jolted awake in the middle of the night, goes running through the empty, currently sleeping town. He explains through voiceover his feelings of being stuck in such a boring place, unable to move forward. All he wants to do is go to college as far away from Gatlin as possible and as soon as possible.
But There’s a Difference
If the type of information given (a foreshadowing of death, an introduction to the main character, and a good long look at the main setting) are nearly identical, why do I view Ethan’s introduction as superior?
One, where Bella has just chosen to be stuck in a small town, Ethan is doing everything he can to pry himself free from the same type of situation.
And Two, the set goal of the character. By the 3.5-minute mark we know what Ethan wants: to move away and go to college. Whereas with Bella, and a 4-minute mark, we don’t know what she wants. We know why she moved to Forks, yes. But her overall goals in life? No idea. In fact, what her goal was before she met Edward is never made clear in the entire movie.
What do you think? Do you think the difference between entering a small town or already being there matters? Do you think setting up a main character’s goal before the inciting incident is vital? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below.