Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Live Action (2017)


Picture Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I have been waiting for this moment ever since the word got out that they would be doing a live action remake of my all time favourite movie.  When it comes to the Disney classics it is hard to find someone who didn’t like the 1991 animated film.  If by chance you did not like the movie, please accept my condolences because you are now dead to me.

The original introduction to the animated film was an afterthought, but turned out to be one of the most iconic moments from the film.  The stained class scenes portraying the young and arrogant prince who casts away a begger woman seeking shelter from the storm.  She warns him that you should not judge things by their appearance before transforming into a beautiful enchantress.  The enchantress places a curse upon the Beast and all those who live at the castle.  In addition to this, she puts a spell on the inhabitants of the village to wipe their memories of the castle, once more providing explanation to some questions many people have had of the animated film.  The Beast must learn to love, but also to be loved in return before the last petal falls.

Belle (Emma Watson) is not your average Disney princess.  She did not dream of finding a prince and living happily every after.  Belle seeks adventure and exploration, knowledge and truth all lead by her genuine and caring heart.  She is someone that if existed today, everyone would hate because she would be so perfect that being in her presence would make you pale in comparison.  Perhaps this is what happened in the poor provincial town of Villeneuve.  This little tidbit is one piece of information that many may not have known, indeed, the town has a name.  In addition to be a strange and funny girl, the film expands on Belle as a person.  We get a deeper glimpse into her character showing more of her headstrong bravery and not caring what others think of her.  Taking after her father, she also is learned and has her own knack for inventing things.  While in the original film, Belle’s father was an inventor, in the live action film he makes exquisite miniature music boxes.  Something common in Disney films due to the loss of Walt Disney’s own mother, Belle’s mother is not existent in the animated film and is never mentioned.  The live action film expands on Belle’s past allowing a glimpse into Belle’s mother and her desire to know who she was.  We also get a glimpse at a beautiful little baby rattle of Belle’s that is topped with a red rose.  Just one of the many objects from the film that I am dying to own.  Belle’s father, Maurice (Kevin Kline) sets off one day to deliver one of his music boxes, but is lost in the woods.  When he is attacked by a pack of wolves he is forced to take shelter in a strange and remote castle.  It becomes evident that there is something very strange about the castle and quickly escapes.  Upon leaving the castle he happens upon some roses at odds with the mysterious winter landscape in the middle of June.  Remembering Belle’s desire that he bring her back a rose, he plucks one, only to be attacked by the Beast and thrown into the dungeon for being a thief.  When her father’s horse appears at home distraught and missing both the wagon and her father, Belle sets off where she finds her father locked away in this mysterious castle.  Making a trade for her life, Belle discovers that she has sentences herself to live imprisonment with a Beast.

Emma Watson is basically a real life Disney princess come to live.  Having grown up in one of the most magical and forever spellbinding series, Harry Potter, Watson has been able to break through the barriers of being known for her one role and truly becoming one of the greater young actresses comparable to some of the leading ladies of Hollywood.

Gaston (Luke Evans) is the towns hero but little is known of him.  He was essentially just a good-looking man with no real career but to hunt and be admired.  Here we learn that Gaston is a war hero once again adding depth to the characters of the film which is done from start to finish.  Though he doesn’t have anything in common with Belle, her lack of interest in him causes her to be all that more attractive to him and he makes it his mission to make her his wife.  Trailed by his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad), Gaston is willing to do whatever it takes to have Belle for his own.  The character of LeFou has received unnecessary controversy to the directors choice to make LeFou gay.  Living in the shadow of the most handsome guy in town, LeFou drops hints regarding his affections for our arrogant mans man.  LeFou’s sexual orientation is not truly the issue, but the fact that adults are faced with the uncomfortable situation where they have to try to explain to their child who does not discriminate why they are such a horrible person.  Once again this is an added depth to another character, each time adding life to the story and distinguishing it from the animated story.

I really followed the creation of the live action Beauty and the Beast through the social media of Luke Evans.  Evans is an openly gay actor and at first I struggled with the fact that he was cast as Gaston.  How was I going to watch a movie of an actor I love playing a character we are supposed to hate?

The Beast (Dan Stevens) is one of the most changed characters of the remake, creating a life-like man-beast who is educated, strong headed and strong tempered.  As we get a glimpse into Belle’s past and of her mother, we are also shown a bit of the Beast’s past with the loss of his mother and the implication that his cruelty and arrogance was learned from his father.  While Steven’s voice is every present in the character of Beast his human form is first introduced to us beneath a wig, elaborate clothing and makeup for a ball.  He is then quickly changed into the Beast only appearing in his human form with no extravagances in the very end.  You can’t help but stare at the man during any interviews while trying to connect him to the Beast whose face you have come to know to the man it feels you know so little about.

The staff of the castle and the enchanted objects are some of the most memorable characters from the animated film and hosts many of our favourite characters.

Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) was bouteiller to the Beast and transformed into a candelabra.  More complex than the animated version and given more of the appearance of man.  The change in appearance was done beautifully, though I can’t help but miss the dripping candlesticks over the golden man.

Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) was the Beasts majordomo and transformed into a mantel clock with an immense amount of detail throughout his body.  There are war embellishments along the frontal piece which speaks to his character.  Though talkative, it is Lumiere that tends to outshine Cogsworth.

Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) was the head of the kitchen in the castle and transformed into a teapot.  While it takes some getting use to not having her spout as her nose and her face being situated on the side of the pot instead, she is still executed beautifully.  The age of Mrs. Potts is questionable in the animated film due to the fact that she has a very young son named Chip, but when she busts out Tale As Old As Time, we can’t help but swoon over her.

Chip (Nathan Mack) is one of everyones favourite and memorable characters from the original animated film.  The live action version creates a chip that is charming with a small touch of nostalgia but ultimately a relatively minor character with less of a part in the film both in teacup and human form.  This creates a disconnect that makes it difficult to associate the human Chip with the teacup boy that comes so easily with the other enchanted objects.

Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was a maid in the castle who was transformed into a feather duster.  Much more elegant than her animated counterpart, Plumette gives the appearance of a beautifully carved feather duster in the shape of a peacock.  Though associated with the main cast of the animated film, she was still a minor character, and plays a much more central role in the live action film.

Madame de Garderobe (Audra McDonald) is memorable from the animated film, though she appears less than the other characters due to her size and harder to explain why a large armour would be crashing around the castle.  While one would assume she was a lady in waiting or something to do with dressing the royal family, the film has created a larger story for her character.  Madame de Garderobe is an opera singer and is married to one of the stories new characters Cadenza.

Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) was a celebrated court composer before he was transformed into a harpsichord.  Alone in the ballroom while his wife is left to stay in the bedroom, Cadenza plays music for his wife in the hopes to keep her spirits up and to keep her awake.  The mention of keeping Madame de Garderobe awake opens up a new reality when it comes to the fate of the enchanted objects.  While young and naive when watching the animated film, we assume that when they say they will be trapped as the objects forever, there is a finality that is missing.  We picture animated candlesticks, clocks and teapots haunting a castle for eternity.  The live action film introduces this finality to the objects, assuming that Madame de Garderobe is one of the least used objects in the house she tends to fall asleep often, each day solidifying her fate as an armour.  This is further expressed in comments by Lumiere for his stiff metal body parts, and Cogsworths gears and internal workings.

While the coatrack does make a few appearances in the animated film, they have chosen to keep the coatrack as an enchanted object, though one that does not speak.

The towns people having had their memories wiped of the castle by the enchantress also creates a sense of mystery and a connection to the castle that is a magical addition to when the curse is lifted and their memories return.  This is just another example as to how these perfectly crafted layers added to the live action film have filled in gaps and breathe a new live to the magical story of our youth.  There are further connections between the town and the castle though I feel this little bit of information is best left as a surprise.

While there are many changes to scenes, characters and events between the animated and live action film, they are done so perfectly that it is difficult to truly have any complaints about the film.  The additions set the film apart while fleshing out the story and drawing us drawing us deeper into 18th century France and the magical tale of how a beautiful and headstrong young girl fell in love with a Beast and broke a curse placed upon not only a castle and it’s inhabitants, but an entire village.

I do want to take a quick moment and talk about Belle’s clothes.  I have to say that I was distracted by her everyday apparel at first being different from the animated simplicity.  Though the outfit was more historically accurate I am sure, when Belle enters the castle I am certain we all had the same thought that it looked as though the back of her dress was tucked into her underwear.  As for the iconic golden dress, when Watson came out I have to admit I was slightly underwhelmed and very distracted by the way the folds of fabric hung at her side.  This is quickly forgotten after watching the dance scene and every other scene afterward while she is wearing the gown because the way the dress moves with all the layers is so beautiful.  I suppose while I am on the topic of complaints I’d like to bring up the magic mirror.  We all loved that little silver mirror with its electric green sparks and while the elaborate curling gold is more suitable for the film, I can’t help but think that they could have used a little less gold scroll work and a little more mirror.  The actual looking glass of the mirror is very small in comparison to the size of the mirror and much of the outer rim of the looking glass is actually covered in frost making it very difficult to see anything at all.  I am sad that Chip’s scenes were changes, but for how the scenes played out it wouldn’t have made sense to have included him in anything after Belle leaving the castle.  Lastly I have to say I am a bit sad to see the “crazy old Maurice” scene gone instead opting for a stranger alternative, but once again all things play out to better fit the story.  With those out of the way, moving on to better things.

My heart was completely enraptured by the live action story from start to finish.  The scenery was so beautiful and even more so by experiencing the film in IMAX 3D.  I have seen other films in theatres in 3D, but I have to say that these experiences grossly pale in comparison to the 3D of IMAX, though I do feel old when I say, Do they have to make them so loud?  The immense amount of detail that you get to witness in every object is stunning, but it also engages the audience in the film in a different way.  There were many things that were so realistic and starling that there were times when you would look to the person next to you and realize they felt the same experience with the same ripple effect throughout the theatre.  It was a very strange experience that stopped me in time for a moment and really felt the audience engaged in the film and connected to each other knowing the people next to you are experiencing the same thing completely setting it apart from any other 3D experience I have had before.

This live action remake is setting the bar extremely high when it comes to any other Disney classic remake, but I also feel like Beauty and the Beast had more pressure.  While we are willing to accept the changes and the portrayal of the remakes such as Cinderella and the Jungle Book,  Beauty and the Beast has such a strong following that the smallest of changes could upset the entire balance of the film. Though I had faith that the live action film would do justice to my beloved Beauty and the Beast I am truly blown away by how perfect the execution was with very little to complain about.   The finality of the fate of the enchanted objects and the layers woven to create such depth to all these characters really made this film an absolute wonder and hard to keep from shedding a tear.  I look forward to the release of the film to be able to experience the adventure for years to come.


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