The new Beauty and the Beast live action film is in theatres now. N and I finally got the chance to see it the other day. We were very excited and nervous as the 1991 animated film is a particular favorite of both of us.
To begin with, the story of the film remains largely the same. The main plot points and direction of the film closely follow the original. All of the iconic scenes from the original film were in this one as were most of the iconic songs. There were also some new songs added and some small changes made to the original songs such as some word choices and some added dancing.
Let’s discuss the pros first. The look of the film, from the costumes, to the sets, to the CGI magic was phenomenal. N and I were both blown away by the beauty and splendor of the film. The look of the film was so well done that it really brought the film to life in a new and special way. We will definitely watch the movie again when it comes out on DVD. A couple of moments that particularly stood out were the making of Belle’s ball gown, and the ending where the curse finalizes and then is broken.
There was a lot more character development in the film. The Beast was changed a bit for this film and his back story was delved into a bit more. Both changes greatly improved the story and added extra elements of depth to his character.
One of the scenes added to this film (I won’t describe it in detail to avoid spoilers) really added depth to the relationship between Belle and the Beast. It was a very touching scene that had great emotional depth and was really well done. The Beast also had a song that was new for this film that was beautiful. Dan Stevens added a lot to the role and has a great voice. The song was my favorite of the film’s soundtrack.
The staff in the castle were given more back story as well. This also improved the film and answered a few questions that the original film had, such as, why were the staff punished for the cruelty of the Prince. While we are talking about the staff, I must say that another pro was how adorable the Chip character was. He had added many moments of laughter and cuteness to the film that we quite enjoyed.
There were moments in the film where Luke Evans struck as the perfect choice for Gaston. He really hit the spot with his narcissism and self involvement. He has a great voice and gave a fantastic performance in the pub scene. The added elements in that scene were so good and seemed so natural and real for the character.
Now for the cons. This part is very hard. Let me start with the easier bits. First, the fact that Maurice was an artist instead of an inventor didn’t bother me. But for some reason it his character seemed flat and almost like he was missing something.
Second, there were some added elements to the Gaston character that I greatly disliked. Gaston is already a fantastic villain, he is shallow, narcissistic, and chauvinistic, but he is also charming. He is a character that you love to hate, but also love to see on screen and to sing along with. In the new film, Gaston is cruel, manipulative and harsh. It was overkill in a way that almost killed his likableness as a villain. It just seemed so unnecessary and detrimental to the character and the film.
The only thing about this that worked for me was that the changes to the Lefou character helped to temper this. I would not have liked the new Lefou character as much as I did if Gaston had been the character he should have been. The new elements of humor and wit in Lefou worked well when combined with the new cruelty of Gaston. But I would have much more enjoyed it if Gaston and Lefou had more true to their original characters.
Third, while some of the new songs in the film were good, there were some fantastic songs already there that were missing. Most notably this is true for the song Human Again, which was not in the 1991 release, but was so popular in the Broadway version of the tale that the animated film was rereleased with the song added in. However, it is not in the new film. I really felt it should have been. Instead they had a short new song that kind of hit some of the points of the song. I am just said since Human Again was so good that I feel the new song couldn’t fill the void.
The last con, which almost every other review I have seen greatly disagrees with, is Emma Watson as Belle. First let me say, that I know that such an iconic role is hard to fill and I kept an open mind for whoever would try and fill the role. However, after two minutes of seeing the new Belle, I wished they had chosen another actress and had not made the changes to the character as Emma had requested.
Emma wanted the character to be an outsider and “strong.” She therefore spoke strongly and quite meanly to Gaston and had a scene where she was bullied by the townsfolk. However, the original Belle was an outsider not because she was mean or bullied, but because the people of the town did not understand her. They weren’t mean to her, they just couldn’t relate to her. The original Belle was also not mean to Gaston, she was very polite when she turned down his proposal saying “I just don’t deserve you”. In the new version, when he asks to go to dinner with her she says no in a very mean way and tells him that she will never marry him because he is dumb. Being “strong” does not mean being rude and mean. The original Belle was plenty strong and she was nice too.
Second, and most importantly. Belle has a few iconic and beautiful songs, not power ballads, but moving songs filled with longing and dreams. Emma Watson was so heavily auto tuned in every song she sang that it was painful. She also cannot dance as the character needs to for the film. She was trying hard, but her dancing was so off, that they added a line for her about always stepping on her father’s feet when he tried to teach her to dance. If they really wanted her to play Belle so badly, they should have at least had someone else sing for her. Nothing to do to fix her dancing sadly but at least the music could have, should have been fixed.
Overall, the film was good, and N and I do plan to watch it again. But it will not replace the 1991 version for us. The Belle character was just so wrong in the new version.