With this live action adaptation of the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast Disney, with the help of director Bill Condon and writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos, will prove that no one does fairy tales quite like they do.
Sheltered from the outside world in a small French village, Belle spends her days reading and dreaming of adventure. Everyone around her, with the exception of her father, thinks that Belle’s odd. None of the other women in the village can read and all of them swoon over Gaston, who Belle routinely rejects. This rejection only strengthens the brute’s determination to win her heart by any means necessary.
Off in a forgotten castle, the Beast and his servants wait as their time to break the curse slowly withers away with each fallen petal. Lost and chased by wolfs, Belle’s father unknowingly takes refuge in the Beast’s castle. After being scared off by chip, he leaves taking a rose with him to give to Belle. What’s the punishment for grand theft rose? Life imprisonment apparently. Belle comes looking for her father and ends up taking his place as the Beast’s prisoner.
Emma Watson’s version of Belle would be an excellent role model for anyone, not just young girls. She’s a strong person who isn’t afraid to go against the grain. Belle is kind, but she also values herself and her own happiness. When she takes her father’s place it isn’t so she can spend her life locked away in a tower while he lives out the rest of his days alone, she does it because she thinks she can escape.
Belle doesn’t marry Gaston because she knows she wouldn’t be happy and even when the Beast and her begin to get close she tells him it’s impossible to fall in love if you’re not free. Though it might not be the case in the animated film, this version of the character does not have Stockholm syndrome. While they probably would never have met if he hadn’t taken a hostage, it isn’t until he sets her free that she realises the true depths of her feelings for him.
Emma Watson plays the role beautifully. Sure it helps that she’s perfectly cast as the brave yet slightly naive bookworm, but Watson is very charming and excellently performs alongside her mostly CGI co-stars. Most impressively she is able to stand up to the Beast, who is significantly bigger than her, without it seeming unrealistic. This is a Belle with a considerable amount of inner strength.
Life in the castle is rocky at first, but the other residents do their best to make it more tolerable for Belle. While the talking objects are well realised in live action, the designs are strange and often not as interesting as their animated counterparts. The performances were also hit and miss. It is voice work, but the movie’s live action and some of the actors were over the top and cartoonish. Most notable is Emma Thompson who, despite being from England, plays Mrs Potts with an annoyingly exaggerated English accent.
The Beast is played by Dan Stevens who does a great job showing the gradual thawing out of this cold character. While he is initially physically imposing, Stevens manages to blend in some of the spoiled, need to have the last word, aspects of the prince. This is one of the first signs that there’s still humanity inside of the Beast and it’s genuinely fun to watch it grow over the course of the film. The Beast looks great and Stevens pale blue eyes stand out so much, making it impossible to mistake him for anyone else.
No one can’t take a hint, like Gaston. Somehow Gaston has become one of Disney’s most popular villains and Luke Evans’ performance does not disappoint. From the way he walks to his poorly thought out attempts to impress Belle, Evans’ portrayal of Gaston is spot on. Sure he’ll never love anyone as much as he loves himself, or anything shiny enough to have his reflection in it, but for some reason you like him anyway.
If you do find yourself rooting for Gaston then you may need to have a word with the president of his fan club, LeFou. Josh Gad plays a very different version of LeFou. He’s much more refined and has a conscience. As the story goes on, LeFou questions his loyalty to Gaston. This is really interesting to see and adds a new layer to what could easily have been a throw away character. Before the movie came out, Disney announced that Gad’s LeFou was gay. While it is suggested, there’s nothing solid in the film. He even says that it’s his neediness that is holding him back with women and never actually mentions he’s attracted to men.
Hard to believe that there was a time when this movie wasn’t going to be a musical. What a huge mistake that would have been. There are some new songs thrown in with the classics meaning even diehard fans have something new to look forward to. Most people know Josh Gad can sing, but Luke Evans, Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor and even Dan Stevens all boast surprisingly impressive singing voices.
The songs and the amazing sets really sell the fantasy of this fairy tale world. The castle is beautiful, though the danger of falling to your death is high since a lot of the taller towers are in desperate need of hand rails. Even looking at Belle’s village, the detail is astounding. The whole hierarchy is shown visually as Belle sings. The boys go to school while the girls fold clothes, the men work while the women either wash clothes or shop. Even if you ignore the catchy tune, the world Belle lives in is established right before your eyes.
Beauty and Beast is the by far the best live action adaptation of fairy tale so far. It’s partly because the story, and the message about the value of inner beauty, is timeless and relevant to the world today, but also because the film is extremely well put together. Excellent cast, brilliant songs, amazing visuals and a script that improves on the original story without completely rewriting a classic. Whether you’re a hard core fanatic or just a casual Disney enthusiast you’ll find a lot to love in Beauty and the Beast.