When I heard that Beauty and the Beast was getting a live action remake I was very skeptical, because how can one improve upon a classic of that magnitude? After all we are talking about the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy award for Best Picture. I came away from this film very impressed.
Disney kept the same story line, which is a, pretty much, perfect Disney story. They also kept most of the same music and score, with a few critical changes. One of the best parts was the CGI, the iconic Be Our Guest scene had me in awe over how realistic it looked. The live action and CGI combo created a uniquely immersive experience. So much so that the whole future of animated films is called into question by this work. Would Disney even make an animated film out of this material today? I have my doubts.
Emma Watson put on an amazing performance along with most of the actors. Yet despite the actor’s skills, three characters got a bit lost in translation from the animated classic: Gaston, Lumiere, and LeFou. In the case of Gaston, in the animated version he was a handsome, strong, buff man, yet in the live action version he was not obviously larger or better looking than the other villagers. Lumiere had a bizarrely fake extremely fake French accent. The last issue I had with the cast was LeFou, there was no issue with the actor or his acting, but the fact that his character was a token. The only reason LeFou was in this live action version was because he was the first gay character in a Disney movie and they needed to make a statement. There has been a lot of controversy over Disney’s decision to make LeFou gay but the truth is that the couple of incidents are so brief and played so much for laughs, if Disney had not announced the character was gay, few would even know.
The music and score was good because it utilized all the famous songs from the animated version, the new songs were good but definitely not up to the level of the first film. The new songs are the Aria, Evermore, How Does A Moment Last Forever, and Days in the Sun. The least impressive of the songs was the Aria, it was at the beginning of the movie during the dance scene before the witch cast her spell. The Aria did not really stand alone as a song, it sounded more like background music. The next song was Evermore, it was sung by the Beast and was very exciting, it showed the human part of the Beast. Evermore was the first time the Beast opened up about his love for Belle to the audience. The next of the new songs was How Does A Moment Last Forever it was the sung by Maurice, the first time we saw him. It was a good way to introduce the new Maurice, meaning it was slow, calm, and collected. The last of the new music was Days of the Sun which was sung by servants of the house, a young Prince Adam, and Belle. It showed how the servants missed their days as humans, how much Prince Adam loved his mother, and how much Belle cared for the servants. In no way did the new songs live up to the old songs (they definitively will not be the next Let It Go), but they were still great songs.
There were also some major differences in the characters and story arcs. Maurice in the old movie from the beginning was a crazy old inventor, but in this one when we meet him he's a very calm, quiet, and collected person. The whole reason he was going to the festival in the animated one was to enter his wood chopping machine in a competition, but in the live action film the reason was less clear.
It also did not make any sense when the whole village backed Gaston in seeking to lock up Maurice in the insane asylum, based on almost nothing. Maurice made two claims without evidence but since he is more normal in this version it seems odd that the town would want to suddenly take him to the insane asylum.
The multi-faceted role of the Enchantress, who opens the story and closes it with a crucial action, provided background and depth to the story.
In 1991 Disney took a classic story and made an incredible animated movie. Now it used new technology to raise the sophistication of the story . This is a good thing -- for the richness of the story, the joy of the music and the way the new technology places the viewer in the midst of the action sets a standard that will not be easy to surpass in the future.