At first I really didn’t want to see this movie. From Jurassic World to Spiderman to Independence Day, it seems the rehashes, reboots, remakes, retellings, re-whatever-you-wanna-call-it, all cared more about cashing in on nostalgia rather than making a meaningful addition to the beloved franchises. So when Beauty and the Beast was announced, I was mildly annoyed that now another of my childhood’s favourite movies was about to get crammed into the remake machine, and I wondered how bad the cube-shaped pile of junk would be after being spat out, but I never intended to pay money and see it.
However, long weekends being the designated time for doing things with family, now that everybody’s always busy with their schedules, we decided to watch the film since it was something all of us recognized.
The short of it: it actually wasn’t that bad. HOWEVER, if you are a fan of the original animated version, you will probably prefer the cartoon to this new live-action take. I would even go so far to say that this newer movie was pretty well done, and is a good movie in its own right, and we’ll talk about why. We’ll also talk about what the film does bad, particularly with respect to its status as remake. This will be followed by a brief discussion on nostalgia and why it works. There will be spoilers, but heck, you oughta know the story by now, right? Snape kills Dumbledore.
It is evident by the midway point of this film that there was tender love and care put into this film’s production. This is a well-loved story, and if Disney gave it the Independence Day Resurgence treatment, it would’ve been like a parent mutilating their own child.
Thankfully, the producers and director did what a good remake should do: be faithful to the source material while adding relevant tweaks for a modern audience to enjoy. Thinking back, I remember being surprised when I realized they added verses to the various songs in the film, but it didn’t bother me (how the songs were performed is another story). The characters also are given a little more depth to expand on their personality. This wasn’t necessary to make the story more enjoyable, but it was a tidy thing to do, and it was well-executed. Gaston’s vanity and its connection to his villainous apathy of other people was made a bit more clearer, Belle’s longing for a new experience is explained by the fact that she remembers having a mother and living in a different place, and the Beast’s temper and lack of kindness that got him into trouble is presented as the result of a bad upbringing. All of these were fine, except maybe the last which felt a bit token-y, but they didn’t interfere with the story.
I thought I would’ve hated the new CG models of the furniture and appliance characters, but they grew on me pretty quickly, and Lumiere and Cogsworth were still the same old buddies I remembered them to be. The skeleton, soul, and heart of the original is present, and that is what makes it a worthy remake.
But unfortunately, it is likely the original will still be preferred by those who saw it first.
There were some superficial changes, and the one that bugged me the most were the teeny tiny little changes in the performances of the songs. The singers all hit the same notes as in the original, but you know how every artist injects a little of their own personality or interpretation into a cover? That happened for almost all the songs, and it nagged at me. The original songs were so good, so perfect, that it seemed inevitable any attempt to cover them would not be up to par. So it’s not really the movie’s fault; it even deserves to be commended for trying and doing a decent job. However, those pauses that occur in “Beauty and the Beast” (the main song) that weren’t there in the original was an example of loud silence. I knew that’s not how the song was originally performed, so stop smearing my past!
Another nitpicky man-I’m-old complaint is the “Be Our Guest” scene. The significance of Beauty and the Beast (1991) is that it was a landmark animation film; it basically convinced Hollywood that “hey! Hand-drawn cartoons can actually make for legitimately artistic and entertaining movies!”. The ballroom scene is usually cited as being the primary example, but the “Be Our Guest” segment in the dining room with the crazy colours and animated choreography obviously played a big part in that revolution too. By comparison, the “Be Our Guest” segment in this 2017 version didn’t really do much to champion the capabilities of computer animated graphics. We’ve been spoiled as audiences for a long time now, getting good CG from films of all genres, and this film simply didn’t do anything different. The lack of a “wow” factor was not helped by how the camera zoomed in so close to the plates and dishes and bowls that were moving around. It was strange; the original use wide shots to show as much colour and grandeur as possible, but this one focused on zoom shots. Maybe the budget demanded less per frame, who knows? What ended up happening was another classic scene being toned down and missing the mark.
One last thing, I thought it was hilarious and terrible how Emma Watson was cast as Belle. Belle is supposed to be French, and the story takes place in France. Kinda strange and insulting how the main lead was given to an Englishwoman.
So you see, the film wasn’t actively bad; it just loses marks because of how good the original was.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. For an in-depth analysis of why things from our past cling onto us, check out Vsauce.
The gist of it is that our past experiences confirm who we are, that we saw the world in a certain way that was real and made sense to us, and because we shared in that world-experience, we are defined by it. Thus, when we look at old photos, or reread old books, watch old movies, or whatever, no matter how objectively bad it may be, we have a fondness for that thing because it was part of our world at one point, and thus a part of us. We tend to make any excuse we can to defend those things, because to tarnish their reputation would, in a way, be a statement on our own character. I knew this thing when I was younger, and I liked it, so if you say it’s bad, you’re saying I’m bad. It’s sorta like that.
So now here comes Beauty and the Beast, the same tale that was watched over and over again on VHS by a whole generation of kids. Now you’re telling me you want to remake it? Why? Is it because the original isn’t good enough for human beings born after the year 2000? Bullocks!
Then again, I’m no longer a five-year-old watching movies again, and that’s what nostalgia reminds me of, and why it’s upsetting when your old things get a fresh coat of paint. Beauty and the Beast does it right; they didn’t change too much of the original story. The reason other reboots and remakes have received poor feedback is that they tried to change too much. Good films stick with us when they touch our hearts. We are less likely to forget emotional experiences than we are anything else; the more intense, the more memorable it is. Thus, while the new film plucks the same heartstrings and plays the right chords, the 1991 came first, it’s the one we have in our hearts.
Worth a watch, because it’s respectful to the original, but don’t expect it to blow your mind. It’s a good re-imagining, but it’s ultimately forgettable. If I had kids, I’d definitely show them the 1991 one first, but that’s just me in my chair shaking my fists at young people as they walk by.
What is refreshing is that this is a remake that doesn’t suck, so that alone makes it worth it. A great musical, an even better love story, this movie is, from beginning to end, #justDisneythings
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.