Mild spoilers for Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast included.
Let me start by saying this is one of the prettiest films I’ve seen in a long while. Everything about it was pretty. When it was gold, it glittered. When it was drab and grey, you could see every speck of floating dust. The architecture of the castle was breathtaking, the props were intricate and beautiful, and the character, costume, and set design was phenomenal. It was a pretty world filled with pretty people. Even the Beast was pretty. But more on that later.
Let’s start at the beginning with the David Bowie tribute. At least, I can only assume that’s what it was because otherwise it’s fairly laughable. A blonde prince getting dolled up in Bowie-colored makeup to go to a fancy ball? Hmm. Well, whatever it was supposed to be, suffice to say he reminds of the babe.
The babe with the power. (source)
Otherwise the movie goes on like the cartoon… Exactly like the cartoon.
I’m not criticizing. I don’t think, anyway. It was amazing to see a beloved cartoon literally come to life. Everything was the same. The songs, the movements, the sets, the dialogue. There were a few changes, sure, mostly to give characters backstory. Which was awesome. Belle and her father got a backstory, and Maurice was actually a complex, interesting, loving character as opposed to the buffoon he was in the cartoon. The castle staff had a backstory, a reason that they were cursed as well. The sorceress had a backstory. Even Gaston and LeFou had a bit of a backstory.
I did a post, recently, on the Myers-Briggs types of the Beauty and the Beast characters. I can now tell you that they all stayed exactly the same. Were reinforced, even. Which, in my book, counts as a good thing.
There were a few new songs, which I could take or leave, though the new score was wonderful. Very Phantom of the Opera, which I’m totally okay with. They were both set in France and featured lots of gold and a moody, emotional main character. Also, Phantom of the Opera is just phenomenal. Bonus points for that, Disney.
So pretty. So moody. (source)
The actual songs of Beauty and the Beast have never been my favorite, and these new ones fit right in. So, I suppose, if you loved the music, you might love these, too. The singing wasn’t different enough from the cartoon to comment on; some parts were slightly better, others slightly worse. Nothing of note.
The voice actors, on the other hand, were incredible. I mean, you’ve seen the cast list, right? Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen… Wow. Just wow. The other actors did well, too; though, to be honest, they were nothing compared with the set. Emma Watson surprised me with how well she fit the part. I wasn’t sure if she could handle it, since she plays nearly the same part in most of her films, but she did a very respectable job as a fairly flat princess, bringing a little life to the character. Luke Evans and Josh Gad were perfection. (How bad is it that I was almost rooting for Gaston? Because come on. Luke Evans.)
*sighs and faints like the silly French girls* (source)
Lumière and Cogsworth were inspiringly designed. So complex, so beautiful. Plumette and Mrs. Potts, however, left something to be desired. A flying feather duster? Eh. But Mrs. Potts was possibly the most disappointing part of this film. They just painted a face on a teapot. I’ve seen prettier teapot designs at Teavana. You’re telling me, after putting all that intricate detail into a candelabra that can move like a man but still function as a candelabra, you can’t come up with a more intricate design for a teapot?
But those are all small, nitpicky things. The downside of having the live action film follow the cartoon so closely was that it was boring. With the exception of two, maybe three scenes, there was nothing new. There were real people doing the exact same things, singing the exact same words, feeling the exact same emotions. After Maleficent, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, I was expecting a little something more.
The other major downside, and I think this is the more important one, is that this film made the cartoon completely obsolete. It’s the exact same thing, but prettier, richer, more detailed and nuanced. And, most of all, newer. It’s like Orlando Bloom and Luke Evans.
Who would want to watch the old, flat, garish cartoon after this gorgeous piece of cinematic brilliance?
It was, in the truest sense of the word, a fairy tale. I left the theater reeling, absorbed in all the gold filigree and rich voices. It left me much like I imagine a fairy revelry would--a little beauty drunk and overwhelmed, the details growing hazier the farther I walked from the theater.
That being said, my fears about this movie were confirmed. Everyone’s heard the, “oh haha Beauty and the Beast is about Stockholm Syndrome and bestiality.” But, in making the characters real, Disney managed to make the problems real, too.
As a friend of mine put it, “They have a problem with that gay scene but no problem with her dating a buffalo??”
(The gay scene was… underwhelming, for all the hype it got. I’ve seen kids do gayer things in church. I can see why people have a problem with it, but that’s another thing for another day. The hype things get is obnoxious. If you let your kids watch any kind of modern entertainment, I don’t think you’ll have a problem with them seeing this. But that’s just me. Anyway.)
This movie manages to blur the lines between moral depravity and moral uprightness, all while being a pleasant romp through an enchanted castle. It’s great that Belle is able to see past the Beast’s exterior to love him. Right? But therein lies the catch. The premise of the movie hinges on the fact that Belle cannot love him as a prince, she has to learn to love him as a beast. One with the legs and tail of a lion and the horns of a ram, completely covered in animal hair.
That, to me, begs the question, “What’s the difference between man and beast?” I’m sure you have a great answer for this. But riddle me this: What if a man falls in love with a gorilla fluent in sign language with a higher IQ than someone with a severe mental illness? Why can’t he marry her? Where’s the line? Does Koko the gorilla have a soul?
I don’t have answers to these questions, if you’re expecting that.
I can get over the Stockholm Syndrome vibes of Belle falling in love with the captor who gives her a library. (I’d fall in love with someone for that library, too. Dramatic sigh.) I can even get over all the peer pressure the castle staff puts on her. Oh, if you don’t come back and love him, we’re just going to become inanimate objects, nbd. But I can’t get over the Beast.
They made him pretty to gloss over those issues--his facial structure is pretty close to flawless. He’s witty, sarcastic, and he has perfect hair. But. He has a very Phantom of the Opera-esque solo at one point, and seeing him sing made me physically uncomfortable. The face of a beast isn’t supposed to move like that. Disney made it even worse with their little, “How do you feel about growing a beard?” comment at the end. So weird.
I like that we’re teaching our kids that appearances aren’t everything, that it’s cool to read and to be different. But are we taking it too far? At some point society has to function. And if we lived like Disney movies told us to, well, I’m not sure that it would be able to.
All that to say, this movie was incredibly pretty and very well done, and if you liked the cartoon, you’ll probably love this. It’s magical. But I do wonder what it’s doing for society. I guess only time will tell.