Tale as Old as Time

By Gina Lu

Beauty and the Beast is my favourite Disney film of all time.  Needless to say I was terribly excited when I saw that there was going to be a live action version of it in 2017.  I must admit that despite the excitement, I was equally as nervous because as we all know that there has been many a time when a film has defaced the value of an original story.  I had some doubts that the original story would be completely changed.  The year long wait and countless previews were excruciating to watch due to my high level of impatience.

When I watched the first trailer, it gave me chills; purely because the background music was the same as in the beginning scene from the 1991 animated film.  People have commented on how grand and epic the music is and I agree and for me the nostalgic melodies were the perfect touch.

This film did not disappoint.  In fact it exceeded my expectations…. even after watching so many TV Spots on YouTube.  The Disney castle logo was incorporated into the beginning of Beauty & the Beast which was pretty cool.  The director, Bill Condon did an AMAZING job.  He went above and beyond his duties to fulfil the hearts of the earlier generation that adored the original film while also introducing a new generation to this wonderfully adapted version.  He seemed to incorporate aspects of the book, fully adapt the original 1991 animated film, the onstage production and the 1997 Christmas film ‘Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas’.  There were additions in this version but in all honesty it’s only fair to accept these additions because we need a way of distinguishing both versions.  A bit of comedy was added to the dialogue.

This film is deeper than I first thought.  It was ahead of its time.  Belle was the first Disney princess who doesn’t want to be a princess but gets to be.  The message I took from this is, be happy in life and more will come your way.  At 34, it taught me a lot about life.  There was a message already in place before society ever really understood it.  Belle had a level of independence which I thought was an original idea in Frozen but it seems I was wrong.  Romance wasn’t Belle’s main focus. This film seemed to be about freedom and being treated different.

When I first heard that Emma Watson was going to be playing Belle in the film, I will admit I was a little concerned.  My concern was not in regards to her level of ability to act because I had heard MANY times that she is a GREAT actress.  My concern stemmed from the point of view of her accent.  I was concerned that she would not speak in the accent from the original version.  I quickly snapped out of that concern by remembering that “Beauty and the Beast” was based on a French fairy tale therefore it would have had mainly French accents but it didn’t in the animated version.  It seems that Emma Watson got a chance to give her say in many aspects of the film.  This included her role as a person.  She was not just a bookworm but she also took on the role as an inventor.  This is one of many additions throughout the film.  These new additions were ones which were written into the 1991 version but were again taken out before the film’s release.  Her character had many costumes throughout the film.  The overall look of her “Little Town” outfit looked great.  After looking at it in detail and listening to how it was made, I have to take my hat off to the costume designer.  There was a lot of thought that was put into the making of this dress and with Emma Watson’s input the design of the dress was massively updated from the original.  I had watched numerous videos of Belle’s iconic yellow ballroom dress and from these views, I was expecting more out of it but the cinema experience of it just blew me away.  The dress was as beautiful as the animated version.  In fact it was even more beautiful.  The gold leaf and glitter with a bit of Swarovski crystals at the end of it were a beautiful touch.  Her library outfit and ending scene outfits are a bit of a surprise so I’ll leave you to enjoy that experience for yourself.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) did a fantastic job on his portrayal of the Beast.   Over the course of the film his character slowly transformed, from a cold-hearted beast, to the human he had forgotten how to be.  The 2017 version delves deeper into why he had become such a cold person in the first place.  I had heard many negative reviews on how much CGI was used for the Beast but I honestly think using CGI on the Beast was necessary because I feel if you have the equipment why not use it.  I mean its 2017, why would you choose to go any other way than technology?  I’m just glad he wasn’t in the costume of a beast.  The detail in his blue suit for the iconic ballroom scene is beautiful.  I kind of feel it was a little unnecessary because to see the original in live-action would have been cool but this version of the suit is beautiful in its own right.

Luke Evans is really believable as Gaston.  He captured the ugliness of the character in such a captivating way.  He played evil to the core.  I found him so evil that I felt sorry for LaFou who looked up to him…. probably a little too much.  He was so disrespectful to LaFou’s loyalty…. or infatuation as the case was.

Josh Gad who played the voice of Olaf in Frozen, took on the role of Gaston’s sidekick LeFou.  Disney have made the move and updated his character by making him the first gay character in a Disney movie. I wondered how well Josh Gad would play this part but I must say he played it well.  He portrayed a stereotypically flamboyantly gay man and was quite funny…. and at times annoying.

Kevin Kline took on the role of Belle’s father Maurice.  This 2017 version of Maurice was ten times better than the original because while his role as an inventor had been changed to a creator of music boxes, Kevin Kline seemed to take the role of a loving father very seriously.  He is still seen as “crazy old Maurice” and the connection between him and Belle as a father and daughter is just as beautiful as the original.

Ewan McGregor played in the iconic role as Lumiere.  While he still came across as funny and charming as before, his attempt to stay on-target with a French accent was a bit iffy.  There may be a reason to this though.  Ewan appeared on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ where he told audiences that he had never watched “Beauty and the Beast” before.  As regards his facial features, I heard someone on YouTube use the term “Mandle” gelling the words ‘Man’ and ‘Candle’ together.  This is a very funny and fitting name.  The CGI used for his character looked really cool.  In fact, his 2017 features made more sense than the 1991 version.  The reason I say this is because in the 1991 version, his facial features were on wax which had a constant burning wick on it.  It may be the adult in me but surely by logical standards his face would have burnt off.  Having his features in the actual candle stick made more sense.

Ian McKellen played the quite stern Cogsworth.  This 2017 version of Cogsworth isn’t really much to talk about.  Part of me felt that most of Cogsworth’s lines were taken and given to Maurice to flourish his character instead.  Cogsworth’s facial features lacked just as much creativity as his lines.  It is possible I am being too picky in that regard because both versions of clocks would be difficult to apply the “perfect” facial features on.  If I was to choose which facial feature I preferred, I would choose the 1991 version because it was hard to see the 2017 version clearly.  The detail and colour of the costume he wore in his human form was just amazing.

Emma Thompson took on one of the most elegant roles as Mrs. Potts and did it justice.  She seemed to know exactly what was expected of her in this role.  Her character came across just as warm as the original played by Angela Lansbury.  Her sincerity gave off the same feeling of warmth as the liquid she possessed.  Sadly it was her CGI facial features which disappointed me.  I felt they lacked imagination which ironically is what I feel the theme throughout the film is about; to quote the Beast “Think of the one thing you’ve always wanted.  Find it in your mind’s eye and feel it in your heart”.  I had heard that the creators did try out the original look but it apparently didn’t work because it made her resemble a pig.  This reason annoys me because I think her original features were pig-like anyway and I felt it worked.

Chip was played by up and coming actor Nathan Mack.  While he still played some of his memorable scenes from the 1991 version, I didn’t find them as cute as the original.  He still looked as cute as the animated version in 1991 though.  The CGI applied to his facial features were really well done.

As a child I never really took Plumette into consideration as part of the cast but yet she is very much so.  Her features went from a normal French duster to a posh white dove-like duster.  Personally I think this was just showing off from a creative stand-point…. It gave it a bit of “fluff”.  After you see her human form you will understand a little of why she looked the way she did as a duster.

All in all and especially due to the additions in the film which gives it an unbelievable amount of depth, I would highly recommend going to see it…. If you haven’t already done so of course.

 

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