Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Fresh, New Walk Down Memory Lane

Written by: Kanita Tariq

I’ll say it right now - I am a Disney princess enthusiast. No matter how questionable some of their stories may be, when someone asks me what my favorite Disney movie is, I cannot answer with just one. However, I do find myself relating to Belle more than any other princess for many, many reasons. We’re both major bookworms, we both want to travel the world, and we both feel like we just haven’t found our place yet. That being said, when I discovered that Disney was making a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast and that my all-time favorite actress Emma Watson was going to star as the lead, obviously, I was excited. This is what I wanted so badly, and I knew it could go two ways - as wonderful as I would expect, or horribly, horribly wrong.

This entire experience was one that I had never experienced before. I was prepping for this film for months, watching interviews and every teaser, reading every update, and listening to the soundtrack as soon as it was released. Was I just a bit crazy? Perhaps. If you know me, then you know that I take everything I love to the next level. My expectations were high!

Emma Watson was a perfect choice for Belle. She was just as I imagined and more, and her acting was very convincing. Her singing voice definitely did not beat the amazing Paige O’Hara from the original, but wasn’t as terrible as critics were implying. Her acting fell flat a few times, especially when interacting with the animated characters (“Be Our Guest” must not have been fun for her), but she otherwise did incredible. Dan Stevens was an amazing Beast and Prince, and the level of character development he managed to display was excellent. Luke Evans brought everyone’s favorite villain to life, but much less one-dimensional. His acting and singing abilities did not disappoint, and he was very enjoyable to watch. Josh Gad seems like the funniest, sweetest person, and the complexity he had given his character, whom he had very little basis on, was very impressive. Shoutouts to the wonderful voice actors, like Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), the legendary Sir Ian Mckellen (Cogsworth), and Ewan McGregor, bringing my favorite character, Lumiere, to life.  

The sets were, as far as my investigation had gone, almost entirely practical. The castle was lavish and majestic, giving me major Hogwarts vibes. Many critics complained about the CGI on Beast’s appearance. I disagree, having loved the sensitivity of his face and the emotions you can clearly see in him. In that respect, Dan Stevens did a wonderful job. However, the animation of the household objects was very intricate and realistic, unlike the simplicity of the original. While this change is understandable, it is difficult to sympathize with them simply because of their design.

Many of our unanswered questions are addressed in the film. What happened to Belle’s mother? Where is Beast’s family? Why is Gaston so admired in the village? Where is Mr. Potts? And most importantly, how are the villagers unaware of their former Prince and his many servants? Each of these plot holes and more are sealed with detail in the film. Most of my favorite scenes were when Beast and Belle became friends and how easily their relationship was panned out for us to see. It was quite a grand production and it never felt like there were too many subplots. However, this left the iconic waltz sequence at the center of the film quite underwhelming, certainly not like the showpiece of the musical.

The music was catchy and almost completely true to the original, and some new additions were fresh and completed the soundtrack perfectly. I found myself singing along to “Be Our Guest” and a new tune, “Evermore.”

This Beauty and the Beast has the opportunity to resonate in our hearts today, a contemporary remake of arguably, the first modern Disney princess. As I walked out of the theater with tears streaming down my face, I felt a new appreciation for Belle, and a new connection formed between us that makes her even more special to me than before.

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