Beauty and the Beast (Bill Codon, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Katrina Storton. Viewed in theatre.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the latest film in Disney’s recent string of live action remakes. As someone who grew up watching a lot of classical Disney and read a lot of Grimm’s fairytales, I was very skeptical of all these remakes. It can be hard to accept a new version of something so near and dear to your heart. The first of Disney’s live action remakes was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), then four years later the ball really got rolling with Maleficent (2014). Since then Disney has created Cinderella (2015), Jungle Book (2016) and now Beauty and the Beast. Some of these remakes of Disney classics have been good, some bad. It truly all depends on your personal taste and your background with the films and their stories.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up; Belle was an inspiring role model, to say the least. I was somewhat skeptical of a Beauty and the Beast remake as I was underwhelmed by all the other remakes 2014 on. However, the casting choices abolished all concerns I had.

The casting was perfect, to say the least. Every actor perfectly embodied their roles to the fullest extent possible. The story was excellently portrayed, and the CGI effects were used tastefully and beautifully.

Luke Evans portrayed Gaston with gusto. The character is still narcissistic and excessively masculine, but his character now has the background of being a former soldier in the French army. Le Fou, played by Josh Gad, teeters between wanting to be Gaston and wanting to be with Gaston. Some moments he’s awestruck, others he’s filled with admiration. There is certainly a bromance between the two characters, to say the least.

Beast/Prince Adam may be the most altered of them all but in a good way. The origin story of his curse is better explained, the extent of his curse and the castle’s curse is also more detailed. Beast has suffered from his curse immensely, and from that, he’s learned and changed. He understands why he was cursed and has accepted his punishment, no longer feeling he is worthy of redemption, worthy of love. His servants/furniture have never given up hope though.

What struck me most about Beauty and the Beast was Emma Watson. Of course, most of us know her for her role in the Harry Potter franchise as Hermione Granger. Emma Watson has been a good role model for girls on and off the screen.

In her own life, Emma Watson has a B.A. in English Literature from Brown University. Recently, Emma began hiding copies of one of her favorite books in the London Underground, each book with a personal note from her. She has been a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador since 2004. Her political activism mostly concerns women’s rights, feminism, and education.

Hermione teaches young girls to embrace their intellect, to be strong and independent, and to stand up for what you believe in. Sam from The Perks of Being a Wallflower teaches you to express yourself and don’t care what other people think, to love people for who they are and to treasure each experience like it’s your last. Belle is no different; she reaches out to a different demographic of girls. She is introverted, and that’s what makes her so special to so many girls.

Artwork by artist “Apolar” on DeviantArt.

The Belle most know is a headstrong bookworm who seeks adventure in the great wide somewhere. That is still who Belle is but now she is more, her character is deeper. Belle is now an inventor like her father, she not only enjoys reading but also educating and is extremely open-minded. While introverted, Belle is not shy nor is she afraid to speak her mind. Belle is reserved by choice but fierce when needed. She reads her audience, considers her situation, uses her intellect and picks her battles. Another layer is added to Belle through her father Maurice, who is a huge key to what happened to Belle’s mother and why they live such a small, provincial life.

The new version is filled with change, but the heart of the original film is still very much omnipresent. The characters are more defined, the visuals are stunning, and the added songs bring an entirely new layer of depth to the story.

When it comes to remakes, reviews can be difficult because all you want to do is compare the new to the old. What was done well, what wasn’t done well, what was kept, what was changed, what was removed and so forth. Sometimes you have to take the new film for what it is and nothing more. Don’t criticize because it is a copy of something you love, but also don’t be biased and love it only because it is a reincarnation of your favorite tale. The best case scenarios for all the remakes that have been coming out lately is to look at them with fresh eyes, take the film for what it is.

Overall Beauty and the Beast is a lovely, heartwarming film with a beautiful soundtrack and lively characters. It is a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme.

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