Does the tale as old as time translate to live action? Film’s Tom Egerton reviews 2017’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’
I am always sceptical of a Disney remake. It’s hard not be nervous when Disney has produced both Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, and it looks like every classic is getting called up to base for their own shot on field. All news prior to Beauty and the Beast did not fill me with any confidence. Was it smart to release the goofy looking beast beforehand, who knows? Should they have cast a Scottish man to play a French character? I’m not so sure. All I know is watching a video of Ariana Grande and John Legend singing the title song had me pitch forking with the townsfolk trying to kill the beast before I had even seen the film. Despite the awkward pre-marketing, the film surprisingly holds out well; whilst it does mostly ride on the coat tails of the original, it has brought new elements and a certain grandness that I enjoyed.
A lot of the merits that I can give to this remake stem from the original. Most important is the music which remains fantastic but that can be accredited to the original source, it’s just a relief they manage to maintain it. There was the addition of one song in particular that I did enjoy and I was glad they included it, even if it did feel a bit forced. It was as if Disney said ‘hey we are a different film, we have original songs’ but it’s abundantly clear this film is using nostalgia to power it. Whilst a few of these new songs were enjoyable, there was one song that was rather perplexing and I didn’t understand its inclusion. At the very end during the credit sequence, I became rather confused, as to why the ancient Greek monster ‘Sirene Dion’ had been allowed to perform her death song, but there it was, calling me to my own demise. Despite her siren song, all the other songs felt authentic and didn’t break my immersion.
One element I greatly enjoyed was the increased theatricality, with large sets and excellent choreography. I’m glad that Disney invested enough money to make a convincing town and castle. The songs were full of life it was clear that the theatre aesthetic was trying to be created; it is with this authentic bustle that the vibrant choreography becomes apparent. The song ‘Gaston’ is even improved in its grandeur. Additionally, the sexuality of Le Fou which had caused controversy beforehand was an interesting inclusion that I felt added more complexities to the song and his character in general. Sadly, Emma Watson as Belle felt too bland, which I felt was a characteristic that conflicted with the protagonists ideals of being unique in her town. Furthermore, Emma Watson is not the greatest singer; her voiced had a tinge of auto tune that felt like it had been left into the studio.
VERDICT: Beauty and the Beast is looking nice and new with its fresh coat. It may be a blatant copy of its original but it is done well enough so I wasn’t angered by it. I’m glad I saw this film and I’m certain most people will enjoy it because of its past influence. However, the fact that it is being carried by the original means that this film could never become anything more; it is a well-made remake and nothing else.
Article by Tom Egerton