PRO: Written by Emma Greenberg '18 and Arin Garland '18
The new live action “Beauty and the Beast” was released nationwide on March 17, 2017. Ticket sales have been extraordinarily high for this classic Disney remake, topping other Disney successes like ‘Moana’ and ‘Finding Dory’. It’s no surprise why people are lining up in front of theaters to get good seats and why it seems to be at the forefront of every entertainment medium.
It’s a Disney classic which many millennials have grown up watching. “I’ve liked disney movies in the past, so I’m excited to see the remake,” Aliza Dodge ’18 said.
Perhaps as a result of wariness of passionate “Beauty and the Beast” fans ready to criticize any changes, or the deeming of change unnecessary, the movie stuck closely to the original plot and characters. However, there were a few minor, but not unwelcome, changes; a backstory on how Belle’s mother died, the Beast’s solo, and a character twist on Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, who seems to hold romantic feelings for him, making him Disney’s first gay character. Some people have worried about the gay character being too over the top, but LeFou’s sexuality is a very minor undertone about the character.
Another reason why so many people have been so ecstatic for over this movie is because of the music. The original “Beauty and the Beast” already had a soundtrack of its own, and many people were either anxious to see whether they would change it or not, whether the voices of the actors would fit, or excited to see it come to life.
“I was worried that the live action version of Belle won’t be able to sing well enough. I think the casting of Emma Watson was based solely on looks rather than her voice, which should’ve been a greater factor. I was happy to see though that she was a strong singer in the movie” Monique Prior ’18 said. Emma Watson did not disappoint, proving that she had what it took to be the voice of Belle. The other characters, like Watson, also proved to fit their roles perfectly, not only with their voices, but with their looks as well.
Angela Zhai ’18 said that she would recommend it to people of “all ages,” stating that it is a “beloved Disney tale [that]...reminds people of their childhood, and in today's heightened political climate, a little nostalgia and a chance to escape, even for a few hours, is very welcome.”
CON: Written by Jackie Sussman '17
Words have power. This is a sentiment upon which every critic thrives; positive words can catapult careers, while negative words — though fun to write and read — undermine the millions of dollars and countless hours directors, producers, animators, actors and more put into creating living art.
The power behind words is rooted in the responsibility of any journalist: report with candor. Though conscious of the impact of words, my duty entails sharing an honest perspective of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
And that is this: less is more, and more is less.
There is something comforting in the simplicity of original Disney princess movies. Viewers are transported into a universe with pristine hand-drawn animation, fluid storytelling and a predictable happy ending that makes all rejoice. This type of movie is one of the few clichés that, au contraire to the meaning of cliché, never gets old.
These movies are not, however, without fault.
Disney has been continually criticized for representing women as weak and unintelligent, for their lack of diversity, for their utilization of Stockholm syndrome and necrophilia in stories, for their lack of good maternal figures, for creating unrealistic body standards; the list goes on.
In a, no doubt, laudable attempt to create the lighthearted world characteristic of Disney movies and address the shortcomings of the original 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” and other Disney films, director Bill Condon created a movie that, in all senses of the words, tries too hard.
Within the first few seconds of the movie, viewers are overwhelmed with the opulence of the prince’s (Dan Stevens) castle. This was one of the few aspects of the movie where opulence both in cinematography, decor, costumes, vocals and choreography made sense; after all, as Lumière (voiced by Ewan McGregor) says later in the movie, “this is France,” and the 18th century French aristocracy grew to fame due to such excess.
But such exuberance — though it was just enough in the 2-D film to not be considered overboard — was often found in the strangest of places.
Take the CGI effects, for example. In an attempt to make the Beast seem realistic and frightening using advanced animation technology, animators sacrificed all ability for the Beast to show any outward emotion. If it weren’t for Dan Stevens’ superior voice acting, the entire Beast character would have seemed disinterested for the duration of the movie, thus losing the development of the iconic amorous connection between him and Belle.
A digression: let’s talk about Emma Watson’s Belle. I have an incredible respect for Watson; as Hermione Granger, she was my childhood hero, and Watson still continues to be my hero after continuing her education and becoming a U.N. advocate for international women’s rights. But Watson’s portrayal of Belle was a huge letdown. Though she may look the part, she was bland, her voice was auto-tuned to the maximum (which is the director’s fault) and she carries the same scrunched-eyebrow expression on her face the entire time. She just felt all-around inauthentic.
But returning to the main point, in trying to answer questions left unanswered from the original version, this live-action remake lost a number of the critical detailed scenes that made the original an Academy Award for best animated picture nominee. This movie inserted a pointless backstory for Belle’s deceased mother of whom, frankly, no one cared nor wondered about originally. To do so, the directors had to shorten a number of scenes that made the budding romance between Belle and the Beast more believable, such as the Beast walking Belle to her room (Lumière does it); the Beast attempting to eat his soup with his spoon and then Belle slurping the soup (here they both just slurp the soup); and Belle teaching the Beast to read (the Beast had an “expensive education” in the remake and they bond over Shakespeare).
Another example: they made Gaston (Luke Evans) even more of a dick — pardon my French, pun intended — by having him attempt to kill Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline), which was completely unnecessary. This is just one in a series of examples that tried to darken the storyline, but in actuality made the storytelling a little rickety.
The cherry on top, however, is this: the portrayal of LeFou (Josh Gad) as gay. Though Gad, as he has been in his roles as Elder Cunningham in Book of Mormon and Olaf in Frozen, is hilarious, Gad is hardly an adequate injection of diversity into Disney movies. As The Guardian put it in their review of the movie, Gad “is defined by the comic potential of his sexuality rather than just his sexuality.” So way to go, Disney, for trying to be more inclusive and diverse; but next time, take it more seriously.
Though there are clearly many drawbacks to this Disney film, I still recommend seeing it. There are always faults in movies, and there is nothing better than sitting back with a bucket of popcorn and watching a true “tale as old as time” come to life.