Back when I did my Disney movie marathon in 2017, I also watched all of the live-action remakes made up to that point. Among them, there was Beauty and the Beast, which at the time was a fairly recent movie. The remake was a big success, earning about $1.2 billion worldwide. With a budget of close to $255 million, it’s also among the most expensive movies of all-time. It received generally positive reviews, with a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an average score of 6.7 out of 10. I personal know people who very much enjoyed the remake, but I didn’t. I hated it actually, and that’s coming from someone who put the original in the top 10 out of all the Disney animated movies.
When trying to re-watch the movie for this blog post, I couldn’t even finish it. Considering I’ve sat through movies like Nukie, Garbage Pail Kids, Baby Geniuses 2 and Disaster Movie, that’s saying something.
It’s not that this movie’s even bad, nor do I feel particularly attached to the original. I enjoy it, and I respect it, but it’s not even my favourite Disney movie of all-time, nor will it ever be. But there are just so many things that bother me about the changes this movie makes to the characters, the setting, and the themes. I physically cannot shut my brain off, so I cannot ignore these things. It all adds up to a movie that infuriates me.
Before we get into what I don’t like about this movie, let’s take a quick look at its development. Shortly after the original animated movie’s release, Disney also released a Broadway Musical. At one point, they also began working on a film adaptation of the Broadway Musical. However in 2011, famed Disney music composer Alan Menken confirmed that this adaptation had been cancelled. But after the success of Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, they started working on a bunch of new live-action remakes. Bill Condon soon signed on to direct (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls, Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1 and 2). Quite the variety of directing credits there.
Apparently, Disney first approached Condon with a proposal to remake the film in a far more radical way, like Snow White and the Huntsman from Universal Studios. But when Frozen became a massive hit, they realized that audiences would show up for an old-school musical approach. They tried a couple other story directions, including a darker, more dramatic film, but they ended up working on a movie very close to the original.
In January of 2015, they announced Emma Watson as Belle. Apparently she was the only choice for then Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan F. Horn, who had previously run Warner Bros. … while the Harry Potter films were being released. Dan Stevens soon joined in as the Beast, along with Luke Evans as Gaston. Other well-known cast members include Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, and Ian McKellen.
(As much as the CGI in this remake is really good, it also changes Lumiere from this very expressive, fun character, to this figure where you can’t read his face at all – especially in darker scenes like this.)
Before I get into why I hate this movie, let’s first look at a couple of things I do like about it. First, Kevin Kline’s version of Belle’s father is great. In the original, Maurice was mostly a comedic character. Here, he’s got a lot more dignity, and he’s been changed from a bit of a crazy inventor to a music box maker and an artist. This is a good change. Two, in this version, Maurice isn’t just locked away because he’s trespassing. He’s locked away because he steals a rose, something straight out of the original fairy tale. I find that to be a nice touch. Also, when Watson isn’t singing, she does a good job from an acting standpoint. Also, uh … most of the minor characters are well acted too.
Ok, let’s start from the beginning. The costumes, and the references to Gaston’s military career, firmly place the movie’s timeline in 1760’s France. Guess what happens shortly afterwards – the French Revolution. Anyone who knows about history knows that this revolution wasn’t so kind to the royal families. Right away, knowing that bit of history destroys whatever happy ending this movie was going for. Like I said, I cannot shut my brain off when it comes to these things. Even before the revolution, class tensions were high, there were frequent riots, and France had also recently suffered a humiliating loss against the British in the Seven Years War, in which they lost most of their North American territory.
Furthermore, a lot of the townsfolk in Belle’s town are visibly upset that a woman can read, despite how women reading in that time period was actually very common. In fact, there were multiple periodicals available specifically meant for women, similar to the modern day magazine.
Evans does his best with the Gaston character, but I find it impossible to take him seriously as a villain. He seems like an ordinary guy – not intimidating or impressive on any level. He doesn’t even look like a casual body builder, which makes the line “roughly the size of a barge” in the Gaston song feel really out of place. Compare that to Gaston in the original movie. He’s an idiot, sure, but he’s an impressive physical specimen, he’s charismatic, and that’s the exact kind of figure you need to lead a mob. He’s admired by a town that doesn’t realize what a monster he truly is. That’s how mob mentality works in the real world. In this movie, the town seems to look down on him. That goes against the entire point of his character – that a charismatic enough fool can lead crowds to do terrible things.
His sidekick, LeFou, is also downgraded in this movie. Before it released, there was a big fuss about how they’re turning him into a gay character. But no matter how you might have felt about that beforehand, this change proved to be ultimately pointless. Instead of being a total buffoon, he’s flamboyant. They also randomly turn him against the town mob at the end of the movie, as if they’re afraid of making the movie’s one gay character a villain. Well … maybe you should have chosen another character then. No offense to Josh Gad or his fans, but I’m just not a fan of his acting. I find him mildly annoying and obnoxious any time he tries to do comedy. That goes for his role as Olaf in Frozen too.
But the worst offense this movie makes is how it handles the Beast character. In the original, he’s clearly shown to have a bad temper. But despite his temper, he’s a good guy underneath. You can tell through the animation that he’s upset at himself after he terrifies Belle in the enchanted flower room. And it’s shortly after that when he starts treating her better. He shows Belle his library just to do something nice. He risks his own future by letting Belle go when she finds out her father is in danger.
In this movie, you don’t get to see his face after he flips out in the enchanted flower room. It ruins whatever regret he might have shown. Furthermore, in the live-action version, he wasn’t the one who told her to stay out of the west wing, meaning she didn’t break any kind of promise to him. Unlike the original, Beast didn’t even take Belle to a nicer room in the castle after she agreed to stay in her father’s place. Lumiere and Cogsworth did instead. He only shows Belle his library to show off, after he makes fun of her for liking Romeo and Juliet. At almost every turn, Beast in this movie comes across as a jerk, whereas in the original he’s trying his hardest to be genuinely nice. I just don’t understand how Belle could possibly fall in love with Beast in the live-action version.
Unlike the original, it really does feel like a case of Stockholm Syndrome in the remake.
Even when he lets Belle go to see to her father, that moment is significantly worse in this version than the animated classic. In the original, there is no indication that his castle servants will suffer any more than they already do. In this version, they added that extra bit where if Beast doesn’t find himself a woman soon enough, they’ll all turn into antiques. They will essentially die. Beast is willing to sacrifice the lives of dozens of castle servants in order to save one person. No matter how much he loves Belle, for all he knows, he’s leaving those who have loyally served him for decades to die. That’s kind of despicable. Furthermore, why couldn’t he somehow use that time traveling book to get Belle there and back quicker?
Don’t even get me started on that time traveling book that only gives us a nearly completely pointless look into Belle’s past.
The music also feels downgraded in this version, thanks to the auto tune going overboard. Sure, Watson is good from an acting standpoint, but she’s got a weak singing voice. They probably should have dubbed over her with someone who can actually sing, especially considering how great Paige O’Hara was in the original. As impressive as the visuals are in the “Be Our Guest” segment, it also feels like it’s trying too hard.
I could go into more detail about why I really don’t like this movie, but I just don’t care enough. Whatever anger I may have felt the first time I watched the movie has been replaced by just not caring. This didn’t ruin the original movie for me. And if you do happen to like this remake, I don’t want to take that away from you. I hope you keep enjoying it. But I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, especially if you’re like me and you can’t shut your brain off. But there is one thing I will say about both this movie, and the last two remaining movies for this blog series.
(Even without the muscles, this feels like a
more accurate adaptation of Gaston’s character)
These remakes are so similar to the originals that they’re almost pointless, at least from an entertainment standpoint. But at the same time, as long as they keep making over $1 billion, Disney will keep making them. There is obviously a market for these movies. There’s obviously an audience. But unless these remakes make significant changes, I’m not really all that interested. On that standpoint, the upcoming Mulan remake looks like it could be good.
In conclusion, I really don’t like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast.
(Sure, why not add this legendary video?)
As of right now, there are only two remaining live-action Disney remakes out – Aladdin and The Lion King. Both released last year, and I watched them both over the Christmas break. I will be rewatching Aladdin, because there are some changes in the movie worth talking about. I won’t be watching The Lion King again though, because it is pretty much a shot-for-shot remake and I have a very good memory when it comes to movies.