The original Disney animation Beauty and the Beast was the first film I ever saw in the cinema. The now iconic soundtrack won two Academy Awards, and it was the first feature-length animated film to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars. To this day the film is highly regarded, the music is instantly recognisable, and Belle is one of, if not the most popular Disney princess.
So, when the wheels of the remake machine started turning, and details started to come out about the new production, I, along with the rest of the world, started to get very excited. For starters, Disney seems to have really hit their stride with live action remakes, with Cinderella and The Jungle Book both being better than they had any right to be.
Director Bill Condon has made some wonderful films, and is an academy award winner, albeit for writing, not directing. Lastly, the cast is truly superb, featuring Emma Thompson, Dan Stevens, Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Luke Evans, Josh Gad and Kevin Kline. That’s not even mentioning Emma Watson, a woman whose real-life persona could do nothing but enhance the character of Belle, and turn her into the strong female character we all know she can be.
So how did I leave being so underwhelmed? The feeling I had when watching this film wasn’t just disappointment, it was disbelief at some of the choices that were made. Here are a few reasons I believe that this is one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent movie history.
From this point on, there are spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned…
There were a few new musical numbers in here, and the questions is, why? I know the real reason was probably because they wanted it to be nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars next year, and really, I can’t think of another reason. They’re not there to play on nostalgia, like the rest of the soundtrack, and they were only ever going to feel as if they’d been forced in. At the other end of the scale, look at The Jungle Book, a film that stripped away all but the two most famous songs, a choice that clearly benefited the final product.
The one that stood out the most was ‘Evermore’, the song The Beast sings when Belle is leaving him. This is the climax of the film, and just as the momentum was building, we stop for a few minutes to watch The Beast being sad.
I also have to talk about the way ‘Be Our Guest’ was brought to life. For me, this was an almost unwatchable sequence, as overbearing visuals screamed out of every inch of the screen, and it ended up being nothing more than a muddled mess. This is one of the most iconic songs, and well-known sequences from the original film, but trying to replicate it, or even do something similar just doesn’t work in live action. Speaking of which…
The Final Showdown
Another scene that worked well in the original, but didn’t translate to live action was the final showdown, when the ornaments and furniture defend the castle from the villagers. This should’ve been scary, like it was when Belle’s father first entered the castle. Having them be picked off one by one by a hidden threat would’ve been far more effective, but instead the all out brawl we got was just messy. The sound was all over the place, it was difficult to follow any of the action, and none of the villagers seemed fazed by what they were facing, especially Josh Gad’s LeFou, who at one point catches a teapot he then has a conversation with.
Something I loved was the thought of Gaston being a war hero. For a moment I believed that we were going to be treated to a rounded character, a man who was genuinely adored by the villagers for his heroic deeds, but instead we got a Gaston who the people didn’t really like that much, as shown when LeFou had to pay them to sing along with him.
It would’ve been such an interesting take on the character if he was genuinely driven mad by the fact that one woman didn’t appreciate the great deeds he’d done for his country. In many ways, he was a better man than The Beast, so show us that! It would only serve to make the love between Belle and The Beast more believable, as she would’ve been genuinely attracted to his intellect and who he was inside.
The Message / Emma Watson
The final line of this film was a true low point. Having Belle say ‘how would you feel about growing a beard?’ completely undermines the good message of the film. The idea that it’s what’s on the inside counts is a wonderful thought, and one that Beauty and the Beast has always stood for, but in this one line all of that good work was undone.
Also, in a film where such a big deal was made out of the fact that there was a gay character, which was a positive inclusion, and one that no doubt appealed to Disney’s huge LGBT following, there was a joke about men being dressed in women’s clothing. This joke was old and unwelcome when it was in 90’s sitcoms, and it simply shouldn’t have been featured here. Showing people that this is something to be laughed at does more bad than seeing a man dance with another man does good.
As I eluded to in my introduction, Emma Watson is a woman I admire and respect, and I believe she’s used her success to have a positive effect on the real world, but she shouldn’t have been cast as Belle. Anytime she was singing I could easily hear the post-production on her voice, meaning that she just wasn’t cut out to play the role. She might embody everything a Disney princess should in the modern world, but there are definitely better roles for her, and better actresses for this role.
Disney Cinematic Universe?
This one might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out… Imagine if in the opening sequence, when the enchantress revealed herself and put the curse on the prince, the camera turned round and we saw Angelina Jolie, in full Maleficent getup. This might not be true to the original story, but Disney fan theorists would’ve exploded at the thought of a connected universe.
The story is very small in scale, so it wouldn’t affect any other plans they have going forward, and the narrative would’ve changed from mixed reviews to a must see, the same way the twist at the end of Split became a huge talking point for weeks. I know I might have lost some people with this one, but people have been trying to squash the Disney films together for years, why not help them out a little bit?
There are a number of other issues I had with this film (just how far away was the castle from the village? Far enough that Belle’s father, a well-travelled man was lost, but close enough to journey there and back in one night? Why did the film end on a shot of a minor character singing, and not on the two main characters dancing? Was the plate a part of Chip, or could he just control it really well? If it was a part of him, does that mean his legs physically came off? Could that magic book literally transport you wherever you wanted to go, or was it just your consciousness? If it could teleport you, why didn’t Belle just teleport back to the town, instead of riding the horse and not quite making it in time to save her father? If it can’t teleport you, how did she physically bring something back with her?), but these were the main reasons I was disappointed.
Do you share my feelings on the film? Or did the Disney magic do its job? Share any thoughts in the comments.