Something There That Wasn't There Before: Beauty & the Beast Review
Oh this enchanting tale as old as time! At least for us 90’s kids.
Because of all the hype over this film, I was hesitant to write this post. But I would like to add my own humble review of the newly released live-action film to the thousands that are already circulating the internet.
There are two aspects of the movie really compare it with the original classic animation: the story and the music.
The Story: New Additions & Beloved Characters
The prologue starts out as being a much more in-depth look into the prince's past. Like the original, it’s enchanting and sets up the story to be a true fairytale. Through the prologue, we learn more about the Beast as a young prince and the enchantress is given more of a role. We even learn why the nearby village couldn’t remember the castle or the prince that once ruled them.
After this opening, you get the tale as old as time that Disney fans are familiar with. The provincial town proves itself more closed off, extreme, and intolerant. For such a narrow-minded village, it wouldn't make sense to have modern establishment such as a book shop. It is the local clergy who owns the small library that Belle borrows her books from. He is seen throughout the film always on Belle’s side of things.
Belle has new agency that she didn’t have in the original. She may be stuck in the small town, but she notices something is wrong and tries to fix it. She invents something that gets her in trouble with the town folk. This makes it easier for the viewer to understand why they turn on her so fast later. Her father even comments about how she’s “ahead of her time.” I think this is foreshadowing why she is the one that is able to finally break the spell.
Though I adore Emma Watson–I mean, I'd take a bullet for that woman–her portrayal of Belle seems somewhat disconnected. Sometimes she comes off as aloof when I think she’s trying to portray joy and wonder. I feel that she played Belle, but didn’t become Belle.
Now please, to those of you who LOVE Emma, don’t hate me! I love her too. She’s a fairly good actress. Emma herself is very much like Belle, which I love her for. I think she simply needs a different role that takes her away from the independent, bookish, beautiful female lead in order to be all the more believable. Overall, I think she did a nice job at portraying the beloved Belle.
The character of the Beast is one of the biggest differences from the original animated movie and new movie. This Beast is educated, literate, and even refined. This makes him less of a project for Belle and more of an equal, which leads to many touching moments in the film. The two of them were able to connect on a deeper level, which made the concept of them falling in love so quickly more believable.
One disappointment in the development of the Beast was knowing his name! After the release of the original Beauty and the Beast, Disney gave us all the knowledge that the Prince’s name is Adam. Though this was never mentioned in the new film. It only would’ve taken one line!
The Prince, portrayed by Dan Stevens (Oh Matthew! Any Downton Abbey fans out there?) is only on screen for a few minutes, the rest of the time his voice and motion capture is what we see as the Beast. Overall, I was very impressed with the portrayal of his character, but moments where it felt awkward to watch, like when he sang.
One of my big worries about the film was that I would not like the new cast taking over the characters I was so familiar with from the animated feature. I’m happy to say that with just one or two exceptions, the new cast fit the characters perfectly.
One of the people who was perfectly cast was Josh Gad as LeFou. He had added depth to a formerly one dimensional character. In fact, of all the characters in the movie, I feel that his has the most arc. You can see this in various parts throughout the movie, but the one that surprised me most is his line during “The Mob Song,” when he starts to realize that Gaston isn’t all he’s made up to be: “There's a beast running wild, there's no question, but I fear the wrong monster's released.”
Another little detail I thought was wonderful was the fact that people in the village had family in the castle! It added a new level of realism and empathy to what both those in the castle and those in the village were going through.
Overall, what the movie adds, the backstory for the Prince, the explanation of what happened to Belle’s mom, and an ending that wraps up everything in a nice bow, are what elevates the film from being more than just a remake of the original.
The Music: New Songs & Original Favorites
When I heard the first clips released of Emma Watson singing for Belle, I won’t deny that I was worried and disappointed. But once I saw the film, could hear the songs along with their visual counterpart, I was fairly impressed.
Fans of the original movie will be happy that their favorite songs have returned. I felt the new songs fit in very well too, giving more context and meaning behind . Purists will be put off by some of the lyrical changes, but I think they work in the context of a film with more ties to reality than an animated film.
Throughout the film, it seems as though the auto-tuning of Emma’s voice was less apparent. It’s very apparent throughout the beginning of the song “Belle.” But there are many moments when she sounds really captivating.
One part that sticks out to me in that song is the section when Belle sings, “Oh, isn't this amazing? It's my favorite part because—you'll see…” As she daydreams, she spins and turns with flowers and market-goers all around her. Not only was the scene visually engaging, but the way Emma sings it sounds like an everyday young woman hoping for her own bright and exciting future.
This makes Belle even more relatable than she was in the original. She doesn’t let her current situation get her down, she keeps her mind on the future she hopes to have. This gives more depth than her sitting on a fountain with sheep eating the pages of her book.
I have too many favorite musical numbers from this film. I adore “Evermore,” as you’re able to see more clearly into Beast’s mind. His feelings for Belle are much more apparent, how she inspires him, changes him, give him new life. “Days in the Sun,” is such a wonderful addition of what life was like before the spell on the castle and its tenants.
But it was “Gaston,” that takes place in the village tavern with the movie’s main villain that had me smiling ear to ear. Though it had many lyrical changes, I was particularly impressed with the musicality, storytelling, and orchestrations during this song! The dancing added was so much fun! I keep telling friends that I wish they’d remake the film AGAIN just so I can be in that scene.
This film truly does have something there that wasn’t there before! It stands on it’s own, apart from the classic. I’m excited to see it again.
We’ve loved discussing what we loved and didn't about the film. So, we'd love to extend the invitation to chat it up about all things BATB. Let's make this one big movie discussion! What are your thoughts and opinions? Tell us in the comments.
Header Image from LetterBoxd