Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney movie ever since I was little and still is my favorite. There’s just something about it that makes me so happy, it has an atmosphere that’s undeniable. The songs, the characters, the animation ..it’s all great and it’s a classic. Judging from the latest trend in Disney of remaking every animated movie they’ve done into a live action version, it’s not surprising that they decided to tackle this one too. It feels like this whole thing has been under the works for so long that it’s hard to remember what my initial reaction was at first but there’s no doubt that I was intrigued. I saw the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast the other day and I can gladly say that it’s a great time and is done beautifully. It was a little shocking to find how many negative reactions there have been to the film though. The main complaint for this movie seems to be that it’s somewhat of a copy and paste situation where it’s very similar to the 1991 original. That didn’t bother me as much in the sense that I went in expecting a lot of the same beats to be hit because that’s how it was marketed and I mean if we’re being honest, it’s Disney, they aren’t going to take too many risks. I mean even the one big “change” about a certain character being gay that was promised is barely touched on throughout the movie and could’ve really just not been mentioned in the first place. There are some subtle additions to the new film though and while they might not be such big changes they still, in my opinion, differed enough from the animated version. Also, I won’t lie to you and say that seeing the numbers that I loved so much in the original brought to life with so much spectacle didn’t put a giant smile on my face. It’s true, this movie put me under Disney’s spell right when the opening number Belle started. But isn’t that what these movies are meant to do? I can understand maybe being a little annoyed with the fact that it’s so similar to the original, but being so mad at a remake like this that is solely made to feed off of people’s nostalgia seems unnecessary. Surely I don’t think this version is better than the ’91 version, but how could it be? I’ve loved that movie since I was 4 or 5, there’s nothing that could surpass it for me. That being said, for what this 2017 version is, I really loved it and enjoyed myself.
Now let’s talk about the differences between the two movies whether they’re for better or for worse. I thought it would be best to break them down since the differences are so subtle.
The biggest changes in this version of the film mostly come from the characters. The one character it seemed they added to most was Belle. In this version, she still reads but also invents/creates things (for one scene, but still it’s something) and is actually given somewhat of a backstory with her mother and her father. Nothing can beat the performance from the original but it’s still worth noting that Emma Watson is as charming as ever. The Beast has most of the same traits and backstory that he does in the animated version with the addition of a solo number that I actually found to be a highlight of the movie. Surprisingly, Gaston seems less antagonizing in this version than he does as a cartoon even though he technically does more menacing things in this one. There was just something about the way the Gaston in the ’91 version was animated and voiced that made him so much more threatening. I love Luke Evans and think he has a killer voice but I’m more drooling over him than intimidated or scared of him in this. Now let’s talk about the most talked about character in the lead up to the release of the movie, LeFou. Played by Josh Gad he was marketed as Disney’s first every gay character. This is another thing that I wasn’t really surprised by. People seemed angry by the fact that the character wasn’t actually gay but more that his sexuality is slightly questioned in a few scenes. I’ll say it again, this is Disney, a lot of the time it takes them a while to catch up and even then they don’t go all the way out of their comfort zones. Maurice is another character that got another layer added to him, instead of being “crazy old Maurice” he was a mourning father who loved his daughter and was maybe a little over protective of her. The rest of the characters are pretty much the same as they are in the animated version and while I do think they were all great performances, nothing can beat the voices from the original. I will give a shout out to Ian McKellan as the voice of Cogsworth, he was the one that stood out to me the most.
Other than two or three added songs there isn’t a lot that is changed about the main songs from the original. All the ones you’ve heard before are still great and get stuck in your head, but the new additions aren’t bad either. The Beast’s solo song, Evermore, was surprisingly touching and a song that I found to be a great addition to the story. It does feel very much like it’s taken from Phantom of the Opera, it’s very grand and much more so a ballad than anything else. I will say that my least favorite song of the bunch was probably the title song. I love Emma Thompson and don’t think she did anything wrong in the song per say, but it’s near impossible to beat Angela Lansbury’s iconic version of the song.
The Future of Disney Remakes
The last thing I wanted to touch on was what is to come of these live action remakes Disney has been hauling out. In the past we’ve had a good amount of them, none that I was particularly fond of, especially something like Maleficent (don’t even get me started on it). It’s already been confirmed that there will be remakes of The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. I’m not particularly excited for either of these but of the two Little Mermaid seems like the one that has the most potential to be unique and darker (especially if they’re thinking of leaning more in the direction of the original story). Lion King seems like a bad idea just from the mere fact that there are no humans involved in the story at all. My main complaint with The Jungle Book was the fact that everything in the movie except for the actor playing Mowgli is CGI and at that point, why even remake it? It’s not even live action at that point. But even in that we had a boy, in this it is all animals and no real people to be involved. Going back to Little Mermaid for a second, there was a time when Sofia Coppola was attached to direct before she eventually dropped out. I really think that could’ve been an interesting movie, especially with the way Coppola has been able to tell stories so well about females in the past, but I guess my dream of that happening won’t come true. What’s funny is that there are actually two live action Little Mermaid movies coming out, one that already has a trailer (which is cheese overload if you must know), but the one that’s non Disney isn’t attached to the animated version at all and seems like it’s taking the original story and watering it down for a younger audience. So that’s all I really have to say about this Disney mess, I’m curious to know what other people think about all of it, if you have thoughts feel free to share them below!