Okay! Earlier today I went to the movies and finally got to see the live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast." And...
...it was alright.
But seriously, I enjoyed it. It was a fun movie, and I just might go and see it again. And buy it when it comes out on DVD. So it was a success for me. But it had its share of faults, so I wouldn't call it perfect... but then again, the original "Beauty and the Beast" had its own share of faults as well. So just let me post a spoiler warning and I'll get into it.
(Plus, I'm gonna ramble a lot, so, yeah. )
So yeah. Let's start at the beginning:
My first problem with the movie would be its pacing. I thought several moments went by too quickly, like they were rushing through them just to get to the next part.
The live-action version had the same opening narrative as the animated version, only this time, no stain-glass windows depicting what happened. Instead, we get an actual scene of the prince getting turned into the beast. Here, I thought there was no need to have the same opening narrative, that it would have been better to have had the characters themselves speak what was going on instead. It would have made the movie feel more like its own movie and less like a copy of the cartoon.
I actually did enjoy Emma Watson's performance as Belle. While she's not the singer Paige O'Hara was, Emma still sang sweet and sounded sincere. And what's more, I think I might prefer this version of Belle more than the animated version, and here's why: here, Belle is way more active, more of a "take charge" type of person. And it makes more sense why the townsfolk don't like her this time around: in the village, its the boys who are sent to school, whereas all the little girls spend their time doing the laundry. Belle is educated, loves to read, and comes up with an invention that enables her washing to be done for her (its like a barrel filled with suds, attached to a donkey that walks around the fountain) so she has more time to sit and read, *and* she teaches another little girl how to read. And these kinds of actions do *not* sit well with the ignorant, small-minded townsfolk. Plus, when Belle takes her father's place in the Beast's castle, she tries to escape, not about to honor any promise that she'd stay there forever. And she's far more involved during the climatic battle.
My one problem with Emma Watson's performance is that a few times, she didn't seem nearly as in awe as her character should have been during certain moments, but those are only minor nitpicks. There were many times when I really sympathized (and even empathized) with her, which is important for the character.
I think the movie improved on Maurice in this version as well: in the cartoon, he's just a bumbling goof who serves only as a tool to get the plot going. Here, he feels like his own character. He's no longer an inventor (that honor is given to Belle, because of the homemade washing machine she conjured up), but he is a music-box-maker. Maurice comes across as very warm and loving, but also absent-minded. Its obvious Belle has to look after him because of that, but he's never made out to be an idiot or incompetent. Plus there's a much stronger bond between him and his daughter; there's so much warmth and love between them that you can't help but root for them whenever the world turns against them.
And of course, there's the Beast. I wasn't too crazy about his new design at first, but watching it in the movie, it grew on me. He actually did look scary and menacing in the first few shots of him, and there were moments where he looked kind bad@$$. I thought Dan Stevens gave a wonderful performance as the Beast: he started off as cold, spiteful, arrogant, elitist, and temperamental, and managed to ease his way into becoming warm, sympathetic, charismatic, repentant, and even had some great comedic moments. I guess my one complaint would be that, during the scene where he screams at Belle to get out of the west wing, he didn't get that "Oh, what have I done?" moment in the animated version. I thought he needed that moment to help transition his relationship with Belle.
But not only that, but they added in a new song for Beast, for when Belle leaves him to rescue her father. Dan Stevens knocked it out of the park with that number. While it may have lacked the impact of the animated version of Beast simply roaring his heartache, it was still a touching moment that allowed the character his own solo performance.
I really liked the servants, but even there its half-and-half. Lumiere was well-done; he was quite the scene-stealer. Cogsworth was a disappointment, since he didn't act as much of a comedic foil to Lumiere. Plumette (the feather-duster) was lovely in that unlike the animated version, she's actual character with way more personality this time around. Mrs. Potts was a bit of a disappointment too, in that she lacked the warmth Angela Lansbury had - or at least she did in the first half of the movie. As the film went on, Mrs. Potts seemed to become warmer and had some good motherly moments. Plus, I don't know why people keep on saying her new design looked creepy, I rather liked how she looked in this version! Chip was adorable, and I loved how he got around the castle but rolling the tea-saucer around on its side - kinda like a kid riding his skateboard! The Wardrobe was an improvement, since she is also an actual character this time around, and even has a husband (who's the piano). They had a romance that was rather adorable.
Then there's Gaston.
Oh boy. Well, Luke Evans didn't necessarily put in a bad performance - far from it. But I think the direction they went with the character could've been more well-thought-out. First off, Gaston is more evil and cruel and ruthless in this version... and that's okay. I actually raise no objection to that, because why not raise the stakes for this movie? But in doing so, they sacrificed a lot of his charisma, so that I couldn't quite believe him as The Town Hero. He seemed aloof and introverted, which is not what Gaston is all about: he's loud, out-going, and gets involved with the townsfolk so that he makes sure they all know and love him. There were even a couple of moments where I thought they could have used to establish Gaston's relationship with the rest of the town, but they didn't. It all felt like, "You know Gaston is evil, let's just have him do evil things."
So yeah, I'm not too fond of this version of Gaston - but that's not the fault of Luke Evans. Acting-wise, I thought he did great, and I enjoyed his singing voice.
As for Le Fou, I thought he was alright. Not nearly as buffoonish as his cartoon counterpart, and a much better wing-man, so it made more sense for Gaston to hang out with him so much. I'm sure a lot of you already heard about the confirmation that the character is gay, which is a piece of information I know should have been withheld until well after the film's initial release. Because really, having everybody know that about Le Fou caused more harm than good, for way too many reasons for me to list (heck, even gay people were upset over this news!). And what's more, I think if you didn't already know that Le Fou was gay, you wouldn't even suspect it... well, you probably would, but you probably would have thought it was merely a joking reference to how fawning the original Le Fou was towards Gaston. And its quite possible everyone would have continued to think it was a joke even during the ending scene where he accidentally ends up dancing with another man. But, sigh...
Heh, it was actually because of this news that my mom refuses to go and watch it in the theaters... but she will watch it if I buy it on DVD. She'll watch it for free, but won't pay for it.
The new version actually answers a few questions people have had about the original version for years, such as: why did nobody in the village know about the prince and his castle? How did Belle get the Beast on the horse? Why do the townsfolk think Belle is so odd? Where is Belle's mother? Why did the Enchantress curse an 11-year-old?
All of those were answered in simple yet creative ways: nobody knew about the castle because it was part of the spell; it made them forget about the prince who lived nearby... and about the servants who wound up enchanted. Belle told the Beast, "You have to help me. You have to stand." The townsfolk thought Belle was odd because... well, I already explained that up above. Belle's mother died of the plague that happened in Paris (fun fact: Emma Watson was born in Paris, same as Belle in this movie ).
The Prince was *not* 11 years old in this version when he was cursed, but an adult (in fact, I don't believe the Prince was 11 when he was cursed in the cartoon version either; look at the prologue and the portrait of his human self, he's clearly an adult on those depictions; the only reason people believe he was 11 was because of the line, "10 years we've been rusting!" and the line saying the rose would bloom until the Prince/Beast's 21st year. I think the "10 years" line was just a throwaway detail the writers came up with and never gave a second thought to... that ended up created some unfortunate implications in the long-run).
And... well, there's more for me to say, but I think I've said enough. I'm too tired to go on.
So, in conclusion: it was a good movie. I'd have to see it again to say whether or not I think its a great movie... though I doubt I'll end up saying its a great movie. It was good enough for me to want to own it, so... yeah.