(Beauty and the Beast, 2017)
The live action remake does well by its predecessor, but its longer running time is unavoidably noticeable.
By Harry Faint
It is easy to hold a cynical view on remakes, reboots and sequels alike – especially when audiences hold the original in such a high regard as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991). It was never going to be long before we saw the film reimagined after the success of Disney’s other live action efforts, kick-started by Tim Burton’s Alice and Wonderland (2010) and its 1-billion-dollar box office reception. The original animation represents a peak in Disney storytelling, the rebirth of Disney’s tight grasp on Hollywood before the arrival of Pixar’s innovative computer animation technology. While this live action does not hold the significance of the original, it does well by it – though, sadly its longer running time is unavoidably noticeable.
Though the core of the story remains thankfully untouched, this version allows time to explore characters and settings more, and solve some plot holes that audiences probably did not notice in the first place. The new fleshed out narrative places the film within French history with the onslaught of the Black Death in Europe and the absence of the Eiffel Tower. Though this is interesting, by doing this the film risks ruining the fantastical feeling created by combination of the sweeping score by Alan Menken and the magical elements such as the mirror and the enchanted rose.
The extra dialogue and scenes also tarnish the rhythmic nature of the songs. For example, the films’ opening number “Belle” is intercut with scenes of Belle interacting with the village’s inhabitants. These scenes are tighter and shorter in the original animation, providing a punchier fast-paced song that is both informative in terms of plot but also entertaining. However some of the new moments are striking, notably the scene that takes place in Paris.
The choice to cast Emma Watson as Belle was wise; her real life feminist, outspoken platform aligns well with the films themes and the character herself. Belle was a first for the studio with writer Linda Woolverton (who went on to write Maleficent (2014)) creating a strong, smart empowered girl who sought for more than just a prince, ditching the dated damsel in distress cliché. Watson plays Belle well; she is quirky and awkward but holds a fire of passion. Though, there is no radical difference from the original other than her skills as an inventor.
The “gay moment” that the film supposedly contains has been making headlines recently with the film being banned in several places across the globe. Though director Bill Condon refers to this film as containing Disney’s first canonical gay character in the form of LeFou (Josh Gad), the film barely holds a suggestion on his sexuality; it is anything but ground breaking. Likewise, Bill Condon’s live action film is not ground breaking, but it is enjoyable nonetheless and could well be considered the best remake thus far.