A tale as old as time lives on in the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast. Fans huddled together Thursday night to see the preview of the remake of the beloved film and-if the excited chatting at the end of the film is any indication-it lived up to many of the expectations… including this hardcore Disney geek.
For many of us, the 1991 classic shaped us into the people we are today. Ask anyone in their late 20s or early 30s what’s their favorite Disney movie and you’ll probably hear Beauty and the Beast at least mentioned. There is something special about the story as a whole and the animated classic in particular. It encouraged individuality and bravery, taught us that it’s okay to be ourselves, and, of course, to never judge a book by its cover.
The animated classic was something special that no one thought could ever be recreated… then we got the Broadway musical which, while different, was just as stunning. It was only a matter of time before Disney would transform it into a live action film. As the Disney remakes go, I went in expecting this film to not even be comparable to its predecessor… and I was happily proven wrong.
The film opens just as the original cartoon: we see a grand palace and that iconic haunting tune starts playing on the piano. Right out of the gate, Disney started winning at this remake. The Prince is a grown, vain, cruel man, not an 11 year old child. He turns an old hag away, disgusted, and (you know the tale) he is transformed into a beast and any memory of the castle is wiped from the town’s memory (two plot holes filled in the first five minutes!).
And from here, we know the classic tale. Belle, a bookworm and outsider in her town, dreams of a life of adventure beyond the confines of her poor provincial town, far away from the likes of Gaston. When her father disappears, she willingly trades places with him as the Beast’s prisoner. The Beast, unwilling to think she could possibly break the curse and unable to trust her after she ventures into the West Wing, throws her out of the castle. When wolves attack, the Beast rescues Belle and it’s then that the two begin an unlikely friendship that slowly turns into love. But when Belle sees her father in trouble, the Beast lets her go. A final battle between Gaston and the Beast ensues at the castle where the Beast is shot just before Gaston plummets to his classic Disney death. As the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, Belle admits her love for the Beast transforming him into a handsome Prince.
And, of course, they all lived Happily Ever After!
Now I will start this review saying that I am a Beauty and the Beast fanatic. Any retelling or version-from the fairy tale to the 1980s TV show-I adore and I’m excited to add this film to the list of adaptions.
This film did exactly what I want in a remake: the source material isn’t just still there, but it is almost identical to the cartoon. I can’t think of a single thing that was in the cartoon that wasn’t in this version… and yet they also managed to do the other very important thing when remaking something: they added to the story.
This wasn’t just a carbon copy remake of the original cartoon. There were different aspects of the cartoon, fairy tale, and even the musical incorporated into this new film… little Easter eggs for fans to find. As Maurice is leaving to go to the market, he asks Belle what she would like and all she asks for is a rose. While this wasn’t in the original cartoon, it is in the fairy tale. As a way to show just how selfless Belle is, the story tells of her only asking for a rose and nothing more. Of course, that little rose gets Maurice into a bit of trouble with the Beast but it was a pleasant surprise to find that nod to the original tale in this remake. There was also a very brief nod to the Broadway musical when Belle is first shown her room in the castle. A little tune quietly plays in the background, a song called “Home” that Belle sings in the musical, as Belle explores her new home. It was a small reference but a nice touch for fans of the musical to catch.
On top of working in different aspects from centuries worth of Beauty and the Beast tales, this film did an excellent job at filling in plot holes that have been driving fans crazy for over 25 years now.
We learn what happened to Belle’s mother. The Beast is no longer an 11 year old boy when he’s cursed. We learn why everyone in the castle was cursed and not just the prince. They even make fun of how one moment it’s summer and the next it’s snowing in the original. We even get to see Mr. Potts.
On top of plot holes, we also got some pretty wonderful character development from a few of the characters.
I thought they added to the Beast just enough to make his transformation so much more believable. The fact that he was a grown man when he was cursed makes his tortured existence so much more tortured. I think the fact that he was a man-had experienced the pleasantries that life had to offer and then had it all ripped away-makes him less willing to believe that Belle could be “the one.” When Belle first arrives in the castle, he’s almost flabbergasted that the others think that she could break the curse. It’s his lack of faith that makes it so much more painful when he watches her leave because he let himself believe only to be disappointed.
As always, they added onto our beloved villain giving him a bit of a backstory and more interaction with Maurice, Belle, and even the Beast. He is a general from a war (most likely the Seven Years War from 1756-1763) and the big fish in a little pond. In the cartoon, it could be argued that Gaston was more of an anti-hero than a full fledged villain, just doing the things that any 18th century Frenchman would do when faced with a magical monster. But in this remake they make him a bit more diabolical and villainous. He plots against Maurice and even goes so far as to tying him to a tree and leaving him to die in the woods. This is a conscious villainous decision he made that took him from an anti-hero to a villain. My heart is a little broken over just how bad Gaston turned out, but I also loved how he could go from town hero to despicable villain in the blink of an eye.
The big surprise for me in this film was LeFou. I almost feel bad about all of the “controversy” surrounding his character (though only a random theater down south and the country of Russia seem to actually be offended) because it takes away from how much they added to the otherwise throwaway character that LeFou was. Instead of him just being Gaston’s bumbling sidekick that tagged along behind him no matter what, here in the 2017 remake, we actually watch as LeFou goes from Gaston’s #1 fan to questioning what he’s doing and going so far as to call Gaston a beast. I love what Josh Gad and the filmmakers did with LeFou… they made him just as complicated and believable as the other characters in the story.
Another thing I thought was a perfect addition to the original was the power that the rose actually had over the castle and the inhabitants. Each time a petal from the rose falls, the castle begins to crumble and those cursed inside the castle become more and more like the objects they resemble. It gives the deep seeded desire to find someone to break the curse so much more desperate. If they don’t break the curse, Lumiere becomes a candelabra, Cogsworth remains a clock, and Mrs. Potts will never see Chip grow up. It actually makes the curse far more terrifying than it was in the original.
As a whole, I thought that this film was an incredible remake. It took source material that was beloved by so many and created something beautiful out of it. To say the cartoon or the musical or the live action remake is better than the others is a difficult debate to have because they are all different mediums in which a beautiful story is told. There are some things that the musical added that you can’t find anywhere else. There are things that the animated film gave us that can never be recreated. And there are things that this new remake offered us that added so much to the story. All three offer us the same story told in different ways. And while I can say with confidence that this is the best remake that Disney has given to us to date, there were still a few things that did bug me about this new film.
I am not a fan of CGI… really ever. It’s always so dated-something that looked good in 2002 now looks comical in 2017 and that will continue to be the case as we keep using CGI instead of makeup/puppetry. While the household objects I thought looked really well done, the Beast at times looked so animated. There were moments when we were up close in his face that you could see every detail of his teeth, eyes, nose, and every hair that you felt like you could reach your hand out and touch him. Other times, the animation almost seemed slapped together and even from my point of view in 2017, it looked painfully fake. That’s the thing with hand drawn animation: it is timeless, and so the 1991 animated feature still looks good even with advances in technology. My fear with this film is that 25 years from now, it will look very dated because of the computer animation.
The only other thing I could really nitpick was some of the new songs. I felt like they didn’t really fit into the narrative and they felt slapped in for the sake of having more songs. When the characters began to sing a song that wasn’t in the original, it was jarring and took me out of the moment. The only new song that I did love was “Evermore” sung by the Beast as he watches Belle leave the castle. And even that, while it’s a beautiful song, it still doesn’t have that traditional Beauty and the Beast feel to it.
Disney took a big gamble with Beauty and the Beast (a $300 million gamble). They took a beloved classic and gave us a remake that built on the beautiful tale to leave viewers with a classic tale retold with new songs to hear, new characters to meet, and another beautiful film to add to the universe of Beauty and the Beast. Fans will revel in the beautiful gilded scenery and the reimagined costumes and smile at familiar scenes and moments that made the original such a classic.
Disney has come a long way from their first remake. They’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. They’ve learned to stay true to the original tale while filling in plot holes and adding just enough to the story to make it a bit more meaningful. Their remakes have gotten better as time has gone on from Maleficent to Cinderella and The Jungle Book and now here we are with an almost perfect remake of Beauty and the Beast.
It’s a tale as old as time that so many know and love… this is a remake for the ages that can stand beside its original counterpart as a perfect companion to anyone who loves the tale of a beauty who fell in love with a beast and saw the prince within.
+ Visually stunning. Feels like a real life fairy tale.
+Incorporated aspects from not only the cartoon but the musical and classic fairy tale as well.
+ A complete story with old and new content and filled in plot holes.
+ The cast from Emma Watson and Luke Evans to the trio of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson. While their singing isn’t spot on, they managed to bring the characters to life in a new way that was still respectful of the original.
+The costumes are gorgeous. They are nostalgic but unique to themselves as well.
– Intense use of CGI cheapens the film as a whole, especially for the Beast.
-New songs felt forced and out of place.
-Auto-tune was a bit obvious at some places.
What did you think of the Beauty and the Beast remake? Did it live up to your expectations? Let us know in the comments!
Check out these articles about other Disney Reboots
Amanda Woomer-Limpert is one of the Geekiverse’s newest writers and their official (unofficial) Disney expert.
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