Thoughts on Beauty and the Beast (2017)

SPOILERS

Beauty and the Beast was never my favourite movie growing up – but I was very excited to the 2017 live action movie adaption of this Disney classic. I knew it was never going to match the original, but I was hoping the people involved would stay due to the look and feel of the 1991 film of the same name.

And, it did.

I still loved and adored every minute of it. I rarely cry in movies, but when Belle (in the yellow dress) and the Beast (Dan Stevens) were doing their waltz, I had tears in my eyes. It was every bit as romantic and lovely as the original. They got it right – it was sheer perfection.

The film itself wasn’t perfect. I wish they hadn’t used unknown voices for the animated characters. Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts was fine, Ewan McGregor (Lumiere) changed his voice up so I didn’t remember who played him until the very end, but Ian McKellen’s (Cogsworth) voice is iconic so I found it hard to commit to the character. But this is always an issue for me involving animated movies/characters, so was to be expected.

The biggest issue I had with the film was the timeline. In the animated feature we have some sense of season (the snowball scene, for example) but in the live action, it is always cold at the castle so we have no idea over how long the events take place. How long was the Beast a beast? If Mrs Potts had a hubby living in the village, was he not surprised to see Chip the same age after years had passed? Is it like some Beautiful Mind ghost thing? Or was it because the magic wiped out their memories, did the time passing knowledge come back too and everything was fine? Seems odd to nitpick such minor issues and question the motives of fictional characters – but that’s just something that went through my mind as I watched it. From memory of the cartoon, it’s hinted that Maurice and Mrs Potts may have had a thing in the future – but not in the live action.

Speaking of Maurice, however, I’m glad they let Kevin Kline sing, be it only briefly. It would have been a waste to cast someone of such musical talent and not have them sing. The extra songs themselves added little value to the film – but I loved the Beast’s Soliloquy (entitled Evermore), as he doesn’t sing in the cartoon, from memory. However, I loved all the classic musical numbers, executed perfectly, but I wanted more songs – just like I did in the original. The Mob Song is my favourite number in both adaptations. It was great to get a bit of backstory on the Beast and see how he lived before his transformation.

Another thing I disliked was when the last petal fell, the characters would turn inanimate (IE no longer able to talk, move etc) except the Beast. The Beast would remain a Beast for all time, but the others wouldn’t. That seems harsh to punish the staff most of all.

I also disliked the magic book which allowed Belle and the Beast to travel to wherever they wanted in the world. There’s a whole subplot about Belle wanting to know about what happened to her Mother – and this brings them to Paris – I’m not going to spoil it, but I didn’t think it was necessary, although it is nice to get some back story on Bella and the Beast. It was never an important issue in the original and thus, I feel it wasn’t needed (we also get to see a little of the Beast’s parents as well). I can only imagine that the sorceress cursed the book to torment the Beast of all the place he could no longer visit – but the fact that you could go anywhere with no long wait queues sounds like a dream to me. You could have a whole city to yourself – how is that torture?

Costumes were lovely (and very true to the original) and added to the colourfulness that the original is known for. Production design cannot be faulted. You could tell that a lot of detail was put into making the live action as close to the cartoon as possible, which I’m sure is appreciated by all fans of the original.

There were some changes made though – the Beast can read (as does), Maurice isn’t an inventor (Belle is) and I found Gaston to be a little too mean. I never thought of him as a mean character. To me, he’s always been a little in love with himself and thus wanted to be the best. He wanted Belle because she was the most beautiful in the village, and she’s more of less a prize. The Beast too, he’s the biggest beast Gaston has seen, and sees him as a trophy to put on his wall. So when Gaston leaves Maurice to die in the forest, I felt like he had gone too far from the character I thought he was. However, I thought Luke Evans did an amazing job as Gaston. I wish his body shape had been altered a little – bigger up top, more muscles with tiny legs, but that’s a minor cosmetic thing.

I’ve heard people say ill things of the look of the Beast (not manly enough, for example) at the end of the film, but if you watch the original he’s almost a perfect copy of the cartoon look of the Beast, so I liked how they didn’t try and change that.

Emma Watson’s acting and singing at times was questionable, but I adore her all the same. She did seem young in this though, but take into account the time period of the film, she was probably aged 16 (nowadays 18-21 in Disney movies). Obviously, that then leads to problems with Stockholm Syndrome and the treatment of women, but you’ve got to go back to when it is set. Are you really going to question how messed up the story of someone falling in love with their captive – when the plot revolves around a young girl falling in love with a Beast living in a cursed castle? Really?

There is also some controversy about Le Fou being gay. I don’t think it was that pushed – it was merely hinted at. You could kind of see it during Gaston and in the village, but one could just see it as him admiring him and thinking of him more as an idol. It’s hinted upon later during the final dance scene, when Le Fou catches the eye of Stanley, one of the villagers (who earlier enjoyed dressing in drag). People are over reacting because it’s so brief and so insignificant overall.

I had more of a problem with Josh Gad being cast because whenever he opens his mouth all I can think of is Olaf from Frozen. Small things.

This is one of those movies that will be enjoyed more the second time because then you stop comparing it to the original, and see it more for what it is – being that it is a good, romantic, movie musical. I highly enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see it again. It’s everything it could and should have been – and more. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children and there will always be haters, but I personally loved it.

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