Disney is working on a myriad of live-action remakes of its classic animated pictures, from Mulan to The Lion King, from Dumbo to a prequel of Aladdin to tell the story of the genie (really, Disney? Really?). Recently, this kind of job has been made with Beauty and the Beast, with an adaptation directed by Bill Condon starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the lead roles. I have never been a huge fan of the original film, so I didn’t have a sense of nostalgia while watching this new flick. Taking this into account… Is it a good movie by itself? Let’s find out!
As a huge Emma Watson fan, I was delighted with her performance. She does a great job at portraying Belle! Believable and relatable, Watson proves, yet once again, she is so much more than Hermione from Harry Potter. Dan Stevens delivers a cool performance as the Beast, even if the CGI applied to his face in order to make it look monstrous left very little of it. Both of them work nice as a couple on-screen, so there is very little that we can complain about the main casting choices. The rest of the cast does a good job too, such as Luke Evans as Gaston or Josh Gad as LeFou, but their performances are very much limited by the tone Beauty and the Beast has throughout the entire runtime.
“Hey, kids nowadays are dumb, right?” That had to be the thoughts of whoever that was in charge of deciding what the tone of the film would be. Every detail is shoved into the viewers’ faces, with nothing left to imagination or interpretation. If a character is a bad guy, every single line he says, every single move he makes will reinforce that description. With the exception of a moment towards the end of the movie, there are no surprises here: every damn thing is so foreseeable that the entire film feels dull and boring. It’s not a reimagining of the animated movie, nor a reinterpretation. It’s, simply put, the very same thing, scene by scene, shot again. That may be enough for the fans, but it doesn’t hold up for the rest of us.
And even if they seemingly did the very same film again, this 2017 version is much, much longer. The animated version was 84 minutes long, which was more than enough to tell the story of Belle. However, this time around, 45 more minutes of footage are thrown into the movie. Every song has been kept and a few more have been added, the script has been artificially enlarged… And it feels really boring, many moments could have been removed to make the adaptation feel more alive without compromising the storytelling.
The direction is quite odd. For some reason, Bill Condon (whose most important film to date was a Twilight movie) decided not to use still shots, so the camera moves around constantly in the film. This does look good at times, but it is exhausting. In addition, the cuts are too quick, and there are times in which it seems the whole movie was meant to look like an action scene.
Disney has been shouting about how the characters have been improved to fit in a more modern world that doesn’t like the classical figure of princesses. Emma Watson said her character was given depth, as they had given Belle a job. All this sounded great to me, but the result is nothing but a shadow of what was promised. The princess still seems to have nothing to do, and even if she does have a couple of lines to underline her freedom of choice, it isn’t enough. Disney also announced that LeFou is gay in this new version, which seemed to be a good idea and has been handled terribly. Instead of having a homosexual person and treat it with absolute normality, they had the urge to make jokes about how feminine he is. Not good, Disney, not good.
If there was something that they had to nail, that was the production design. And… yeah, it’s quite good. The scenarios are gorgeous and the clothing brilliant. The living furniture is another story. Characters like Cogsworth and Lumière are very poorly designed, unfortunately… In order to make them look as realistic as possible, their facial expressions are hardly noticeable except in close-up shots. Most of those furniture/characters are quite bland, not as expressive and, more importantly, are 0% cute. The originals looked friendly and beautiful and most of that is now gone.
They also decided to make all those characters with pure CGI, which is a terrible idea. Even the tea-cups were placed with computer imagery instead of having an actual cup and give it eyes later. This was very evident when people interacted with them, and the solution being that simple, it is quite surprising to see they went that way. This also means actors have nothing to look at, which results in their gaze not looking genuine. The reliance on computer generated imagery doesn’t end there, as most backdrops are also made with 3D animation. Forests, mountains… They are beautifully made, but do not feel realistic. Some actual sets are used, which are much, much better, especially the castle’s rooms.
All in all, Beauty and the Beast offers absolutely nothing. Those with lots of nostalgia will definitely like it, but just because it mimics the original at every step. It’s way too long, the script is dull, the characters too simple… It just doesn’t hold up. The actors, especially Emma Watson, do a terrific job, but that’s about it. We saw the beast, but none of the beauty. 4/10