Old vs. New: Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast has been a household name since the original Disney classic came out in 1991. Audiences were captivated by the timeless love story, the characters and of course, one of the best soundtracks in film history. In fact, the original was the first animated film ever to be nominated for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards. Needless to say, this timeless tale of true love is one of the most iconic pieces of cinema in history. So, how could any other version follow that up? Could a live action retelling of this tale as hold as time bring justice to the 1991 hit?
The 2017 Beauty and the Beast is, for the most part, a shot by shot recreation of the timeless classic, (with a few minor changes and songs) that completely encapsulates the magic of the original, without ever trying to modernize itself. The songs we all love and remember are there, the story still feels as romantic and heartfelt as its ever been, and all of our favorite characters are played by talented and dedicated actors who bring these once animated creations to life in magical fashion.
But how can something so engraved in our minds be recreated and have the same effect? Was the creative team in question looking to do so, or just market for nostalgia purposes? You could argue that the name Beauty and the Beast itself would be enough to sell millions of tickets and be a huge box-office success, and from a business standpoint that’s probably true. However, as a huge fan of the original classic, I didn’t feel that way once while watching this live action adaptation. To be honest, I felt the opposite.
No, there’s nothing incredibly different about the 2017 adaptation, (minus a few things) but does there need to be? I can’t say that it does. Bill Condon did an excellent job adapting this to the big screen, without ever being deprived of artistic creativity. His art direction stands out as one of the highlights of the entire film. Nothing felt cheap, refurbished or an homage. The village that Belle (Emma Watson) lives in is fully realized, not feeling like a set, but an actual small village that this little community lives in daily.
The same can be said for the Beast’s (Dan Stevens) castle. Looking both parts gothic and enchanting, the hidden castle is brought to life (literally) with admirable creativity and visually remarkable. The castle is as much of a character as anyone else in the movie and Condon worked with the magical elements of it seamlessly into the story.
Arguably, the most popular aspect of the original film are the catchy musical numbers. This is where the 1991 film has the advantage. The simple answer is, the artists were better singers in that movie. Don’t get me wrong, Watson, Stevens, and company do credible work in attempting to recreate these songs that will continue to be engulfed in our subconscious for eternity. I will say that I am very pleased that the Beauty and the Beast theme from John Legend and Ariana Grande was not in the film, which would have been a total nightmare.
The acting is top-notch in the new version, with Emma Watson never coming across like someone trying to be Belle, she was Belle. The look, the voice (not great, but not bad either) and the way she carries herself is the standout performance in the film. Dan Stevens tries his best, with mostly doing voice and motion capture work for 95% of the movie. I genuinely feel that there would be more emotional weight if the Beast were done with makeup and prosthetics, instead of CGI.
Can we stop for a second to praise how damn good Luke Evans is as Gaston? I mean, holy cow, what a performance. Evans brings all of the mustaches twirling villainy to Gaston while sprinkling in a bit of charm for good measure. You can tell he had a blast playing this role and boy does it show. The “Gaston Song” is one of the more choreographed sequences in the film and works so well because of Luke Evans and Josh Gads LeFou who are a dynamic presence.
What Disney has been able to keep consistent since it first came to fruition in 1923, is it’s sense of wonder and magic. What “Disney Magic” continues to do is give audiences of all ages hope, optimism, some tears and that possibilities are endless. The new version of Beauty and the Beast has the same sense of wonder and magic as it’s predecessor, while still fulfilling your heart with the type of feelings only a Disney film could do.
I realize that this has a lot to do with nostalgia and so many who regard the original as a masterpiece, as I’m one of them. Would everyone go about their everyday lives if this didn’t exist? Absolutely.
However, no matter what way you spin it, this tale as old as time stands the test of time. I felt the magic of “Be Our Guest” in a brand new way, with gorgeous imagery and had my heart fill with warmth once their iconic dance started. The 2017 Beauty and the Beast set out precisely what it intended to do, and that gives both new and old audiences a romance story that truly is timeless. I would be the first to nitpick any complaints on this retelling, being a Disney fanboy and all. And you know what?
DIsney’s Beauty and the Beast opens March 17th, 2017