Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Plot: It's the basic story of Beauty and the Beast, except in this version Belle doesn't promise to be with the Beast, she just willingly becomes his prisoner but plans to eventually escape and Gaston tries to use Maurice to get to Belle.

When Disney announced that they were going to make a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast I was a little excited. I love the animated film as one of my all time favorite films and Belle (as I have already said in my top 15 favorite anime female characters,) is my all-time favorite animated female character as well as one of my favorite characters of all time. When the film was closer to hitting the big screen, I already started hearing good/mixed things about it which I didn't want to know about. Now after finally seeing it for myself, is it as good as the animated film? No, but it has some nice ideas and good visuals that make it's a nice adaptation of its source material.

Let's start with the story. While this film does stick to the general story of the animated film, it has a few changes as you probably expected. I like how Belle's father got into trouble because he took a rose from the Beast's Garden because Belle asked for one before he left just like in the book, and how the castle is enchanted so that it's always winter, and it's especially smart how they added that the spell includes people forgetting that they ever had a prince or anyone else who lives in the castle. It was also a nice touch that they would add that the servants would no longer be alive as inanimate objects if the spell remains.

The cast as a whole gave very solid performances. I was very surprised to find out at the end credits that it was Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen as Lumiere and Cogsworth respectively. McGregor, in particular, hid his voice exceptionally well as Lumiere. In fact, all of the stars that played the servants hit their voices pretty well. I would never have guessed that it was Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza or Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts (though I feel like I should have with the latter in retrospect.) Also I surprisingly enjoyed Kevin Kline as Maurice. There's something about his first scene when he is making that windup toy and singing the song How Does a Moment Last Forever that makes him so likable. Like it's all too clear that Maurice has a lot of love to give and it was nice to see Kevin Kline of all actors deliver that. It's also nice that they add that he's more on board with making sure that Gaston never marries Belle. Then you have Gaston and LaFou. The guy who plays Gaston clearly is having a lot of fun with his role as he should. Gaston is one of those Disney villain that's both menacing and funny, and so it's good to see that they come with some ways for him to have a lot of fun with the roll. (P.S. take notes, people who are making the 101 Dalmatians remake with Emma Stone as Cruella De Vil.) Now there is a bit of controversy with Josh Gad as LeFou. For those of you who don't know, the director of the film, Bill Condon, said in an interview that the film will have a quote-unquote "gay moment." To be blunt, the people who have overreacted about this information have done so over nothing. Yes, LeFou's sexuality is hinted throughout the film, but the moment that Condon is talking about lasts less than a second or so and doesn't really add much. Personally, I think the irony behind the whole thing is that it's kind of fitting for Beauty and the Beast to have the first Disney gay character. Howard Ashman, the executive producer of the animated film put a lot of the strongest themes in that film based on his own experience with his own homosexuality - how people like Gaston are praised as long as they have certain qualities that society likes while people like the Beast are outcast for not having those things. So if something like this was done to show genuine support to the gay community out of respect to the man who gave a lot of the heart into the first film, that would've been great. But instead it's all to clear that they only did this to get more tickets from gay people and otherwise just to play things PC. But hey, at least it's done with more thought and care then Sulu's sexuality in Star Trek Beyond.

When it was announced that Emma Watson was going to be Belle, I knew she was perfect for the job. Like virtually everyone else, I can't think of anyone else then the girl that gave us Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films to be more fitting for the role. When I finally saw the film, she was everything I expected...mostly. While her singing is good throughout most of the film, her voice felt rather off during Belle. I later found out online that her voice was set to autotune and it explained a lot, because while she hit the notes, her voice did not sound like itself. Also, I felt like she could've had a more productive part during the battle between Gaston and The Beast. True, she tries to take Gaston's gun away from him at some point, (credit goes to my friend Ariel for reminding me that,) but It would've been cool to have seen more from her. That aside though, there were a couple things that she added to the character that were nice to see such as teaching little girls to read even though it's considered wrong to the villagers, having her own inventive way to do laundry, and how she planned to escape from the castle but decided via song to stay when she learns that The Beast and the servants areally under a spell. On top of that, her relationships with the other characters are much stronger. She's more direct about her disinterest in Gaston, she spends more time with the servants, her relationship with her father is stronger and we get much more time with her and the Beast talking to each other and finding out what they have in common.

If there was any characters I think they could have worked on a little more, it would have to be the Beast. Now don't get me wrong, he was done well in the long run with his relationship with Belle  and they even added more to his backstory which a lot of people love. However, while I also like the additions to his backstory, I think they could have done a lot more with it. I feel like all we really know is he was into all things beautiful because his father got him into it after his mother died. Now the idea is all well and great as it adds more to his character as well as giving him something he and Belle have in common, but I felt like they could have done more with it. Like give us a visual representation of how his father blinded him into his shallow ways. Again, he was still done very well, I just think they could have added a little more.

The design and the effects are great. It's actually really interesting to see them be more faithful to the the way castles looked around that time in France. Granted, there are statues or chandeliers that look a little over the top, but it's a forgivable flaw given that that's just what the style was at that time. In fact, it was really nice to see this movie show a little more the culture of that time period as well, like Gaston using pistols instead of using a dagger and a bow and arrow against the Beast or how the waltz is set how it was done at that time. The designs for the servants in particular are great to look at. They're all very creative and very neat to look at. I think my favorite designs are the ones for Lumiere, Chip, Maestro Cadenza and Madame de Garderobe.

The music wasn't blow me away fantastic, but good. I guess what I mean by that is apart from how Emma Watson was singing during Belle, everyone was serviceable in singing these songs that we already know. The best out of all the musical scenes would be Be Our Guest and Gaston. Some of the new songs for a good. Again, I really liked How Does a Moment Last Forever and the Beast's song Evermore a lot of people like that I think was decent. I don't remember much about the other new songs, but there wasn't a song I hated which is always good, especially when it's Disney.

And that's my review for Beauty and the Beast. The cast is solid, the effects and designs are great, the music is good with some small exceptions,  and the additions to the story and characters are nice to see. So with all that in mind, how does this one compared to the animated film overall? Honestly, my heart still belongs to the animated one. If you love this one better, I can totally understand why - especially with what they do with Belle, but for me, I think the original one is perfect the way it is. From the symbolism in the castle, to the fact that Belle and the Beast are the only ones who wear blue, to the overall music, the original is special just the way it is. And if we're being honest, I think the original is much more timeless than this one. Not to say that this film won't age well, but I get the feeling that aspects to it like playing PC with LeFou will date it a little. But as perfect as I think the original is over all, even I have to admit that it is open for more things to be added to it whether it's from the Broadway musical, or from this film. So if you want more of the story where they add more to Belle as a character or her relationships with the other characters and things like that, then this movie might be just what you're looking for. Out of all the live-action remakes they've made over the last 4 years, it's not as strong as The Jungle Book, but it has so much more heart and has much more to work with then Maleficent or Cinderella.

Rating: 80%

1 comment:

  1. Matthew David ClineMarch 29, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    Awesome review! However, I have to disagree about this not being as good as The Jungle Book. As a matter of fact, I thought this was not only better than Maleficent or Cinderella, but I also felt this new Beauty & The Beast was better than even the newer Jungle Book. Nevertheless, I respect your opinion. Also, the one thing I liked better about this version was them putting more depth to both Belle and the Beast. I also like the newer songs like "How Does A Moment Last Forever" and "Evermore." Anyway, great review!