By The Brown Messiah
“Ever just the same, ever a surprise, ever as before, and ever just as sure as the sun will rise”
It’s weird going into a movie for which you know the outcome; yet when I went into Beauty and the Beast I was literally unprepared for what I was about to see and experience in the live action version, directed by Bill Condon.
I went into this movie knowing what I was about to witness. As a 90s child I was well aware of the story that Beauty and the Beast is. Peril ensues, hard choices are made and yet in the end the heart makes the best choices of love and compassion to win the day. That’s the Disney formula that has kept them going for almost 100 years. And it works. When you get caught up in the magic of it all you dismiss all logical points of “How did she get there so quick?” and “Wouldn’t he feel like…” I came out of the live action Beauty and the Beast feeling the same and yet different. Ideas of self determination and artistic beauty were on my mind and it cemented to me that this tale is about accepting and living with the unexpected.
The movie plays out very much like the original animated movie does. You’ve all seen the memes. Man gets captured by a Beast, daughter takes his place and lives with said Beast. She begins to fall in love with the Beast by looking past his appearance into his actions. Beast lets her go and she comes back to him and in doing so breaks the spell. The things that get me about this interpretation are the details in between the lines. Details about Belle and Beast’s past are illuminated in a way that seem organic and natural. You’ll have to see the movie to see what I mean but, it makes sense that Beast is the way he is due to his past. With Belle though, her character is brought into a whole new light that seems new and very fresh to all of us, yet settles with the character we all know and love. This new version of Belle, just like the original, is intelligent, avidly reads and is quick witted. But unlike the original version she is an inventor and independent, brave, headstrong, and heroic. She is imbued with a sense of adventure and wanderlust that gives us an unexpected perspective on the classic character.
Disney really knocked it out of the park with this one. Emma Watson plays an exceptional Belle. Belle has always been the brainy one, the one who reads, the one who is odd, and the one who exceeds expectations and casting Emma, an actress who pursues progress and fairness, was more than perfect. For a hot minute, after I had seen the first trailer, I was almost positive that the original voice for Beast was cast for this movie. Yet, after a minute of research I found that Dan Evans did indeed voice the CG version of Beast rather than Robby Benson; the original voice, though I had thought that James Earl Jones was the perpetrator. On this point, I commend Disney for its superb work on augmentation and assimilation in authenticity. Dan Stevens rocks it in all of his scenes and many times I felt as though I was a five year old watching the movie for the first time.
To that point, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere was my favorite role with the brightness and positivity he brought to the role. Along with Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the two of them bring the much needed comedic relief a dark romantic story like this needs. I was extremely pleased with the CGI work done on Lumiere as he is a major supporting character who drives much of the story. All of the details that are put into his candlestick in comparison to his life likeness are spot on. Many of the other characters also share amazing life like qualities it’s just that Lumiere’s is much more noticeable.
But what about the antagonists? Luke Evans and Josh Gad work together magnificently as Gaston and LeFou respectively. Gaston is brutish and self centered while LeFou is longing and sincere. After the reveal from Disney that LeFou is a gay character within the story, it doesn’t seem to be a major speaking point to the rest of it all. If anything it adds to the flair and comedy of it all. See the movie to see what I mean, but all points leads to comedy. “Gaston” has a spectacular scene where all motives are laid out. Even in “Kill the Beast” nothing is left unsaid. I will admit that it was fun to see Luke Evans, who played a noble Bard in The Hobbit movies, transform himself into a self absorbed Gaston.
When all’s said and done, what makes Beauty and the Beast amazing are the visuals involved. The costuming and CG work is absolutely stunning, especially the castle furniture. Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip, along with Plummet, and Madame Garderobe were designed phenomenally. I tip my hat to the artists at Disney who were behind their designs and how they would act. Plummet for example glided and wafted long, as a feather duster would, whenever she was on screen. Cogsworth was rigid and law abiding as a clock truly is. Beast is particularly impressive. The final transformation and Belle’s realization that the man she sees before her is the Beast she had come to love is heartwarming and tearjerking.
I always forget that the story takes place in the mid 1700s so I was a little surprised when I saw frilly dresses and powdered wigs as the major fashion statements, but in the end all of the costume work is spectacular. From bright colors to dark shades the movie really pops out at you, especially if you see it in 3D. That’s not to say you need to see it in 3D, the movie will still look amazing on your 720p screen.
All in all, go see Beauty and The Beast. Go see it for the visuals, go see it with your kids to share a part of your childhood or mid adulthood with them. See it with your significant other, or see it for the nostalgia factor. It is a tale that is old as time and with its modern adaptations we can all hope to come out better than we entered, much like the beast.