We have come to an age when re-imagining classic Disney animated masterpieces into live-action films is a trend; and after Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it is now the turn of Beauty and the Beast to be remade. The 2017 recreation of the animated, romantic, musical fairytale was a harmony of vibrant colors and vivacious melodies. Co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films, the Bill Condon version does not delve too far from the brilliant original, but it still feels new and refreshing. With an ensemble cast composed of Emma Watson as Belle, and Dan Stevens as Prince Adam/the Beast among others, the movie has proved to be a global phenomenon.
The Academy Award-winning and critically acclaimed 1991 classic was a box office hit, and was even deemed as the greatest animated film of all time by media company IGN in 2010. Thus, turning it into a live-action movie in these modern times is quite a challenge, yet Disney has worked its magic once again.
The 2017 version is faithful to the 1991 animation – Belle goes beyond what the eyes can see after she falls in love with a hideous Beast who turns into a dashing, debonair Prince once the curse that enveloped his castle was lifted. Despite this, it did not give me the why-am-I-even-watching-this, it’s-basically-the-same-story feeling that I had when I was watching the Cinderella remake. With this year’s Beauty and the Beast, screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos managed to fill in all the missing pieces from the 1991 story.
In this film, almost all of the characters were given backstories. We got to learn where Belle’s mother was, and what happened to her. It was also explained how Adam grew up to be a selfish and unkind prince.
The screenwriters also painted new hues to the original tale. LeFou now was not only Gaston’s companion and partner-in-crime. He secretly harbors romantic feelings towards the narcissist as well. Maurice is no longer an inventor, but an artist. The character of the Enchantress was also explored more. I would not dare spoil you too much, but I thought that she was Adam’s fairy godmother who only wanted to teach him a lesson so he could be a better man.
With all of these additions to the classic story, the 2017 remake’s plot has become a perfectly balanced combination of the old and the new – something that pleased almost all who have seen this film.
Alan Menken has returned to do wonders once again in this version of Beauty and the Beast. He has provided rich orchestrations within a broad spectrum of emotions. Thus, the film’s score, which did not deviate too distant from his original work, complemented the story very well.
He, along with Tim Rice, also composed new songs for this remake. Two numbers have been added as replacements for their Broadway versions. “Days in the Sun” (substitute for “Human Again”) was an emotional ballad in which the enchanted objects became nostalgic of those times when they were people, and wished to be able to relive those memories. “Evermore” (for “If I Can’t Love Her”) took on a somewhat different tone. “If I Can’t Love Her” shared the Beast’s anguish – that he can never love another person, even Belle; and that no one can love him back because of his terrifying demeanor. However, “Evermore” was a bittersweet song for it told us that the Beast had fallen in love with Belle, but he chose to let her go. Despite this, she will remain to be his inspiration. I loved the songs from the Broadway musical, especially “If I Can’t Love Her”, and I wished to hear them in this film. After watching it though, I thought that the new songs suited it very well.
Aside from those two, another song, “How Does a Moment Last Forever?”, was added. This soothing melody was chanted by Maurice whilst remembering his wife. Belle then sang a reprise when Beast brought her to Paris. Meanwhile, Celine Dion’s full rendition at the credits was a total wow.
However, I must admit that I did not like at all how the title song was arranged for the ball scene. It just had too many interludes in between verses. Meanwhile, Ariana Grande and John Legend’s pop version of the classic tune was cringe-worthy.
The cinematography was outstanding, and the costumes and sets were dazzlingly crafted. They all worked great when blended with the music. “Belle” was an impeccable opening sequence that brought all the viewers to Rococo-era France. The female protagonist’s blue outfit was stark contrast against the earthen tones of those of the villagers, thus putting emphasis on the fact that she was the odd-one-out in her little town. “Be Our Guest” was a marvelous spectacle as well. Other ensemble performances worth commending are “Gaston” and “The Mob Song”.
Praise too to the CGI animators for their magnificent renders of the enchanted objects and the Beast. They evidently put a lot of hard work in all those intricate details. Oh, and that moment when all the animated objects lost their humanity completely was heart-rending. Plus points to the makers of this film for adding that scene!
A star-studded cast has graced the 2017 remake with their acting and vocal skills. Emma Watson, though not born a singer, managed to carry a tune. Her raw talent gave her character innocence despite being a know-it-all bookworm. Dan Stevens, meanwhile, delivered “Evermore” clearly. His rendition of Beast’s solo number was nearly as great as that of Josh Groban.
Audra McDonald (Mme. de Garderobe) shone in this movie with her operatic prowess. Josh Gad (LeFou) and Luke Evans (Gaston) portrayed their respective characters awesomely with all their antics. Truly, all of them were worthy of thumbs up.
Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) did well with the title song, although she was unable to meet the bar set by the animation’s Angela Lansbury. Ewan McGregor gave his best shot as Lumiere, but his French accent failed to feel authentic. Kevin Kline did okay as Maurice, but Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth seemed mediocre. As a whole though, the cast did great.
In general, Disney has excellently used its magic once more with the 2017 live-action film Beauty and the Beast. Equipped with gorgeous designs and opulent music, along with a stellar ensemble cast, this version has successfully captured everyone’s attention, and charmed all of its viewers. Now, as it has earned the title of the highest-grossing live-action musical, and the third biggest musical film of all time, this year’s Beauty and the Beast would undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest films ever made. I am certain [as the sun] of that.