From the first second of Beauty and the Beast, I thought I would be very disappointed. I thought that I had entered into a nostalgia-fueled clone of Disney’s 1991 version, but I am relieved to say I was quite mistaken. Thankfully, being a fan of the original film definitely does help you appreciate the 2017 version, but it’s not essential. I am quite glad that this film stands on its own and doesn’t rely on making its audience think back to the first time they heard these classic songs when they were younger.
Led by Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, the 2017 film tells a “tale as old as time” of a young girl named Belle who stumbles upon a castle in the forest and learns to love a man who has been turned into a beast. Eventually, she must defend the ones he loves, even when it doesn’t seem to be the smart choice. However, contrary to its predecessor, this film focuses more on the culture in which it is based. Using 18th century France as its backdrop, the movie builds plotlines from one of the century’s wars, references the “plague,” uses the fear of witchcraft that was common at the time, and even gives us a glimpse of an old Paris, all while utilizing every costume and set piece to tell the story of where this story takes place. In the original, almost no focus was given to an exact location, and the addition of all these details fit in quite nicely.
As far as visuals goes, this movie was both a hit and a miss. Despite the fact that this is 2017 and Disney is the biggest animation studio in the world, some of the CGI was just a little off. Almost every scene was set in a CGI setting, and was very apparently so. There was no wondering whether or not a place was real, as almost every single scene looked fake. The movie redeemed itself, however, with its character animations. There was so much emotion and depth that you could see with the motion capture of the Beast, and the realistic versions of characters like Cogsworth and Lumière (who had been turned into household objects) were quite fascinating to see as opposed to their quite animated 1991 counterparts. However, it was a little difficult to tell where the household object ended and the human began. They weren’t so much a character as a clock or a lampstand that had a mouth, making yet another misstep on the CGI front.
Despite its heart and content, I do not see this as being better than the original. Disney is taking quite an undertaking with their live-action remakes of their classic animated films, and I have yet to see one be better than the original. It stayed true to its roots, while adding in details that fleshed out the story. Overall, it was a good movie that I think is well worth the watch, and is sure to have you singing “Be Our Guest” for weeks to come.