I don’t get Disney’s current trend of remaking old animation classics into Live Action films. Why is that necessary? Maleficent was fun, it’s true, but that was told with a more sympathetic twist to the villain, which I love (plus the old Sleeping Beauty was badly in need of a rewrite). But what was wrong with the 1991 classic B&tB? Nothing, that’s what. So I went into this new one wondering if it was going to be a waste of time. I’m still not sure it needed to be made but I’m absolutely glad they did.
Quick note – there’s going to be spoilers to the storyline because I’m assuming that you are familiar with the classic. If you aren’t and want to be surprised by what happens in the plot, then read no further. I don’t want another repeat of Titanic when people found out the boat sinks (spoilers for Titanic) It’s impossible, having seen the 1991 film, to watch this new B&tB without comparing it to the old one. I’m not even going to try to avoid that.This new Beauty and the Beast looks so good. Just so good. If I was wondering why they needed to remake it, there was my answer. It became clear to me that Live Action has an impact that animation can’t quite get. This new Beauty and the Beast was staggeringly beautiful.
I have a feeling Disney is highly aware of the commentary on its films. Cracked.com, for example, has provided all kinds of hilarious insights on Disney generally and Beauty and the Beast specifically. And there’s a feminist criticism on the story that seems fitting too, how Beauty and the Beast has a terrible message to girls because it says that if you just stay with your beast man (who isolates you from your family) then he’ll turn good eventually. It is exactly the narrative of an abusive relationship; some tellings of the story make it sound less like love and more like Stockholm Syndrome. Well this version of the tale is FULL of clever little details why this isn’t necessarily so. I also have to mention this is the first film to have obviously gay characters in it – bravo Disney.
I loved the cast. Emma Watson is so lovely that I am theoretically straight when I watch her (and what a set of pipes). Luke Evans had me rooting for the bad guy whenever I saw him. Josh Gad was hilarious (though it was weird hearing Olaf sing the Gaston song). And Dan Stevens was absolutely gorgeous in both forms. It might just be me but I felt like he was even better looking as the Beast. He was definitely more beefy. Like if Belle fell in love with him while he was a beast then when he changed into a comparatively puny human, her feelings might change. Yes I know the point of the film is beauty comes from within, but still, in like seven years from now when they’re filing for divorce, they will pinpoint the transformation as the moment she wasn’t quite as attracted to him anymore.
If there was anywhere this film didn’t quite measure up, it was in the new songs they added. Most of the songs in the old version were in the new version and done better (though I did miss Angela Lansbury). The songs from the 1991 film are timeless and unforgettable but the new songs seemed dated and immediately forgettable. It’s like someone looked at the script and said: “They should sing here – just whip something up.” I’m not sure what the animated one did right, but whatever it was, it’s obviously harder to reproduce than they thought.
So is this new live-action Beauty and the Beast worth watching? Oh yes. I might just be a sucker for musicals (and I am) but the whole thing was wonderful. Go see it, take the family, it’s worth it. And this new one made so much more sense – just so many tiny logistical fixes and beautiful details that weren’t there before. There are probably still things the old one had that the new one doesn’t but none spring to mind so I’m going to have to watch the old one again.