Trying to remake an already impressive movie can cause fans to cringe with anticipation as the release draws nearer. Beauty and the Beast, released on March 17th, is another Disney cash cow, following suit of Cinderella and The Jungle Book. Disney is already in the process of remaking The Lion King and other Disney classics such as Aladdin, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and Mulan to name a few. As long as they keep the magic of the original intact, viewing these live action films allows an avid watcher of Disney productions a new lens through which to experience the fairy tales.
Emma Watson makes a great go at Belle, though we could live without the English accent. After all, the movie is set in France…Bonjour, as is said in the opening song. Aside from her English accent, Watson brings Belle to life, literally. She also shows the audience more about Belle’s life, pre-“small provincial town.” This bit of backstory and character development adds in some layering to the 1991 masterpiece.
Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, captures the essence of the intimidating, angry, but vulnerable character traits of a broken and cursed man. Like Belle, this live action remake creates a new window through which to view our other protagonist, a haunting back story of a sick but kind mother coupled with a harsh and self-centered father. We learn why Beast essentially becomes Beast and it makes us feel for him.
Luke Evans, playing the role of Gaston, captures his part better than any other. His handsome exterior combined with his ugly internal soul creates a dominant and violent man, in pursuit of satisfying his insatiable ego through the conquest of Belle. Fans looking to connect the 1991 classic to this live action portrayal will do so most easily through Gaston because he is most reminiscent of the animated version.
- Bringing the Music to Life: Fans of the 1991 film will experience their favorite songs (and a few new one’s) in a familiar but new way with impressive effects and echoed reminiscence. From the opening number to “The Mob,” where Gaston and the village folk set off to hunt down and kill Beast, viewers will relive the beauty (pardon the pun) of the classic.
- The Romance: Any fan of the original version would be worried about a tampering of sorts with Belle and Beast’s romance. Rest assured, Disney stayed true to the story between them and recreated the crucial scenes to their relationship with seamless skill, even preserving key dialogue such as the exchange between Belle and Beast when Belle is tending to his wounds.
- Character Development Through Backstory: In the 1991 Beauty and the Beast, nothing is known of Belle or Beast’s respective pasts, aside from the brief introduction that is given for Beast’s transformation from prince to monster. The 2017 film gives us just enough information to see how hard Belle and Maurice’s lives have been due to the loss of Colette (Belle’s mother) through a terrible plague in Paris. With Beast, we learn of the loss of his mother as well as the bad influence of his fairly heartless father, helping the audience better to understand why he would turn away the old beggar woman from the beginning.
- Comic Relief Through Le Fou: Gaston’s loyal and trusty side-kick, Le Fou, played by comedy great Josh Gad, adds some flavor to the pushover character we met in the 1991 version. He seems torn between wanting to be Gaston, feeling love for Gaston, and also wondering why he is so enthralled with Gaston. Many of the laughable lines come from Le Fou in the movie: misspelling Gaston’s name and calming Gaston down from the conflict with Maurice in the woods.
- Snowball Scene: Exchanging Beast hitting himself accidentally with the snowball and instead, hitting Belle makes for a surprising and hilarious scene. It was a very enjoyable change from the classic.
There isn’t much bad to be found in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. However, fans of the 1991 classic will notice some differences and changed details that betray the spirit of the original.
- The Rose: The enchanted rose is essential to the plot and storyline of Beauty and the Beast. It is the conduit of Beast’s curse and the “hourglass with sand” for his chances of becoming human again. The live action version betrays the spirit of this first when Belle’s curiosity gets the better of her in exploring the forbidden West Wing of the castle. In the 1991 version, Belle lifts the glass off of the rose and is about to touch it when Beast stops her and scares her out of the castle. In the live action version, the scene is cut too short, Belle does not lift the glass and it makes Beast’s reaction seem too extreme for the scene (had we not had the 1991 film for context). The second affront to the classic comes at the very end when Beast is mortally wounded. In the 1991 version, Belle says “I love you” before the last petal falls. Remember this is the rule of the curse, if all of the petals fall, Beast remains a Beast. In the live action, Belle says “I love you” after the last petal had fallen. A small but important detail, Beast should have never returned to being human.
- The Library: In the 1991 version, Beast surprises Belle and puts a great deal of thought into giving her the library which is a nice touch to the development of their romance. In the live action version, the library is more or less shown to Belle and is not a surprise.
- Gaston and Beast Showdown: A simple but slightly disturbing change, Gaston is fitted with a pistol rather than a knife when battling Beast. He also does not have his bow and arrow which he uses to pierce Beast in his first attack. The lack of physical closeness between the two took away from the spirit of the original. However, Disney manages to fit in the memorable scene of Beast holding Gaston over the abyss of the castle, telling him to “get out.”
Any fan of Beauty and the Beast should see the live action version. It will bring to life the original animated classic while adding some flair, flavor, and layers to the iconic fairytale.
Disney, as long as the magic stays in the movie, keep milking those cows.