It’s finally here, the long anticipated live-action retelling of Disney’s classic animated film ‘Beauty and the Beast’ has arrived in all its glory, recreating the original film in the best way i believe you could. This film fantastically recaptures the magic that made the original animated film so wonderfully beautiful and it does so in a different yet also very familiar way. This doesn’t quite reach the height of the original film but i have to say there are a few things that this film i believe actually represented better than the original. Here you have charming performances, beautiful and chilling songs, potentially award winning set design and costuming, and an updated story that builds on and enhances the one we are all familiar with. All of these elements work together in sync to bring this stunning world to life in enchanting fashion.
One of the most important things this film had to do was retain that spark, that element of magic that made the original Disney film so memorable for a number of generations. Through the stunning visuals and cinematography, the familiar yet different music, and just the overall very light and romantic tone this film bought me right back to childhood when i saw the animated classic for the first time. Speaking of the music, Alan Menken returned to the Beauty and the Beast world to score the music and luckily he did because it is just as fantastic and magical and wondrous as in the original with little updates here and there that tie the songs in with the more grounded live-action world being explored. The new songs are as expected ‘unfamiliar’ (no shit), but i thought they were all great additions that fit very nicely within this updated story. One of the songs that occurs around 3/4 of the way through the film is so fantastic, it isn’t only my favourite of the new additions, it has actually become one of my favourite songs in the entire film, topping some of the original songs.
Now obviously people are going to be comparing Emma Watson singing as Belle to that of Paige O’Hara in the 1991 classic, now although i may still prefer the singing of Paige, Emma Watson brings her own touch to each of the songs and really does make them her own. And in case you were wondering, yes, she can sing and she sounds incredible. I could not have picked a better casting for Belle as i think Emma completely owned the role and gave the character a little more depth and made her a stronger heroine than her animated counterpart. The changes to her character were great, well made additions, and her relationship with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) played a much more prominent role in this story which added more emotional investment to their overall arc. Dan Stevens is a fantastic actor and was near perfect for the role of the Beast, his performance was subtle and heartwarming when it needed to be and also very loud and terrifying when the story called for it.
The supporting cast of enchanted objects in the castle delivered on a lot of the humour in the film and were all exquisitely portrayed in relation to their original personas. It was such a joy watching Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald), Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), and Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), all interact and play off each-others very distinct and exuberant personalities. These were the characters in the film that after 5 minutes of seeing them, i completely forgot about their original versions and didn’t even compare the two once. They blended in perfectly here which was great. Gaston and LeFou were basically ripped right out of the original film and portrayed to a tee by Luke Evans and Josh Gad respectively. They’re comical dynamic is just as present as it ever has been and actually was given a lot more focus and realism than in the original animated film.
In terms of aspects where i think this film surpassed the original i already mentioned a few of the character relationship changes and story changes that i think elevate the film. But where it really hit a home run was with how the ending sequence at the castle was more intense and more cinematic than how it was resented in the original film. This is one instance of where a live-action format actually greatly enhanced the story introduced in the original, making the presence of this film necessary on multiple levels. I also felt that the way it all wrapped up had a stronger emotional impact than the original film. That may be still drawing off some of my experiences with the original film but i actually got a little teary here where in the original i didn’t. It just shows that the added character exploration and emphasis on certain specific relationships worked wonders for the films ending.
But the film isn’t all perfectly executed unfortunately, for the most part it does emulate the quickly progressing story of the original film with a more realistic structure of events. But on a few occasions it does feel a little wonky and uneven in its pacing with a few newer or adapted sequences feeling slightly off. It could have something to do with being so familiar with the original progression of events, but the fact that only some of these updated scenes caught my attention i think it is just the pacing being a bit of an issue.
But in the end this is a fantastic live-action retelling of a Disney animated classic and by far the best one yet. It recaptures all that made the original film so incredible and even surpasses it in a few categories. The performances, set design, costuming, music, and story are all amazingly executed and i can definitely say this film met my expectations essentially across all fronts. For fans of the original animated film this is a very faithful and updated retelling you will love and for a younger audience this is still a fantastic introduction to this Beauty and the Beast story that is sure to live on forever.