Tag Archives: Emma Watson

In Defense of Beauty and the Beast

This is my final rant on the matter. Cross my heart. After this, no matter how much the remake and its lover stalk me, I’ll just let it go. I just can’t stand being barraged with post after post about how much better Beauty and the Beast (2017) is compared to its predecessor, without offering at least some defense of the reverse.

And yes, I am definitely biased, but I wanted to like this new movie. You have no idea how hard I tried to give it a chance, only to be bored, irritated, and let down at almost every turn. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it doesn’t deserve half of the critical praise it is receiving, or the credit for “fixing” the original film.

Doesn’t anyone else remember that Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award, because it was just that moving and beautiful and well-structured?
1) The Animation Supplements Where the Acting Might Fall Short

Not enough lines of dialogue for you? Or maybe you’re just not crazy about their delivery? Just add animation!

Personally, I think most of the lines were decently acted, but the nice thing about having an animated story is that it can help carry a lot through fluid movement and even over-exaggeration of expressions.

Communication is about 95% non-vocal, and you would be surprised how much you can learn about a character by looking at things like posture, proximity, touch, and gesture, as well as facial expressions. While the remake adds a few good things such as Belle’s laundry innovation, which shows her as an inventor and innovator in her own right, Emma Watson’s flat delivery of lines and particularly her default to annoyance over fear in stressful, emotional situations makes her feel less human, whereas Paige O’Hara’s Belle and the other animated characters can be silly, but get across much more about who they are in simple gestures. The live-action cast (most of whom I have adored in other films) had a lot to convey, and probably not a lot of good direction, so when they fall flat, they really fall flat.

 

2) The Original Movie Featured Talented Singers

Emma Watson is not a singer, but that is fine if you can fake it or at least bring some character to the table. The filmmakers clearly had no confidence in her abilities, however, because they polished and autotuned all of the humanity out of her performance. She and the other actors constantly sound as though they are in a studio, not the world of the film itself, and that can be heard distinctly in the lack and diminishing of other sound effects going on in any given scene. They clearly wanted the main showcase to be the singers, so things you might hear like chickens, cart wheels creaking, and other normal town sounds are pushed to the very bottom of the master tracks, if they are even there at all.

Audra McDonald is an actual singer, and a very talented one at that, but she is relegated to “comical” narcolepsy half of the time, and her “song(s)” either get cut short or dial up the silliness that most modern listeners associate with traditional operatic singing.

While the animated singers are less polished to robotic perfection, their flaws provide character and relatability, and their voices are fitting and pleasant to listen to. Paige O’Hara is truly scandalized and outraged by Gaston’s marriage proposal at the start of her reprise, whereas Emma Watson sounds mildly frustrated, but also somewhat uncaring about the situation.

 

3) Subtlety and Symbolism (Yes, Believe it or Not, in a Cartoon)

Did you ever notice how Belle and the Beast are the only characters in the entire movie to wear the color blue? Particularly during the “Belle” musical number, when said protagonist walks through a town filled with reds and earthy hues? That was done on purpose to set the character apart visually from everyone else, which nicely compliments the song about how weird and different she is without being too overt. It also connects her to the Beast, a fellow outcast.

The new movie doesn’t seem to get that, because half of the townsfolk wear blue. It’s missing all of the nice, subtle little touches of symbolism like that, presumably because its creators either didn’t understand them themselves or assumed that the audience was too dumb to pick up on that.

Instead, it chooses to answer largely irrelevant questions, like how Belle got the Beast onto her horse after the wolf attack. Nevermind that in both versions, Beast probably should have broken Phillipe’s back.

Another example is the introduction of Gaston. He is shown killing a defenseless, harmless animal, for seemingly no reason other than that he could. Its body is then picked up by a slobbering lackey, and immediately after that, the scene cuts to Gaston standing confidently in the shadows, before he then swaggers out into the light. Film language is screaming at you that this guy is a jerk before you even hear him speak a full line of dialogue. He is subtle even in his utter lack of subtlety, and it foreshadows his latter cruelty.

Come to think of it…

 

4) The Old Movie was Dark and Scary

The Beast’s first speaking scene shows him as a towering, jagged, feral…well, beast. His early behavior and demeanor contrasts with who he becomes later on, as demonstrated when he starts walking upright, wearing nicer clothes, and attempting to eat in a polite, civilized way.

The other dark, scary visuals and tone convey a mean-spirited world that not only drives home the message and warnings to children, but also makes it more satisfying when the main characters emerge victorious and happy at the end. The bigger and more difficult a trial is, the better it feels when finally surmounted.

The new movie’s wolves are kind of scary….but that’s about it. The new Beast looks computer-generated, but not particularly intimidating. I almost don’t blame new Belle for not being even remotely afraid of him.

 

5) LeFou is Unambiguously a Bad Guy

So LeFou doesn’t live up to his name anymore…I’m not sure why we didn’t just rename him, that being the case.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: how is this new version considered a positive LGBT portrayal? LeFou clearly knows right from wrong here; he’s not as ignorant and stupid as his animated counterpart. And yet his unrequited crush on Gaston makes it okay when he looks the other way, actively choosing to leave an old man to be murdered by wolves in the woods? And then again later, when he has a chance to defy Gaston and stop Maurice from being falsely imprisoned in the explicitly (directly stated in the movie) terrible and corrupt mental institution?

Maurice being rescued in the former case and Belle arriving just in time to stop the latter doesn’t excuse LeFou for his cowardice. Sure, Gaston is clearly unstable, but there is no explicit threat against LeFou and no given reason why he can’t put a stop to the proceedings. He just doesn’t because he’s in love, and therefore that makes it okay.

Nevermind that he backs out of the castle assault at the absolute last minute and thus gets rewarded with arm candy in the end, as if he were one of the good guys all along.

 

6) The Pace Doesn’t Drag Like a Constipated Elephant

Boy howdy, does the new movie drag on at times! The original was much shorter, but still utilized effective build-up and foreshadowing.

In storytelling, particularly in film, there is a set-up and a payoff for just about every major element. The remake introduces a magical book, as yet another item that the ridiculously cruel Enchantress gave to the Beast, but it is brought up and used once, only to disappear when it could have been useful. Instead of riding off on Phillipe in her medieval prom dress, Belle could have used the book to get back to town instantaneously. She and the Beast don’t even use it to find “adventure in the great, wide somewhere,” so what was really the point of introducing it at all?

There are some decent payoff moments in the new film, don’t get me wrong, but they tried to add too much to make the story fit the longer running time, and it just makes it feel flabby. The added scenes go by too quickly, and the scenes reminiscent of the animated feature constantly remind me that I could be watching the other movie. You know, the one I already own? The one that was perfectly fine by itself, but which people were apparently complaining that it didn’t cater to modern sensibilities enough?

…Sorry. There probably wasn’t a serious demand for this, but Disney manufactured one in their attempt to restock bank accounts and (hopefully) fund more ambitious, creative projects from the studio.

 

 

7) Dehumanizing the Villagers Actually Had a Good Point

To paraphrase Lindsay Ellis (the former Nostalgia Chick of Channel Awesome), Beauty and the Beast can be read as a story of innovators being othered by society, which instead glorifies bullies and braggarts.

It’s not just about seeing the beauty within; it’s also about how people ostracize those who are different due to fear and groupthink tendencies, basic tribal inclinations of “us vs. them”. Gaston is attractive, so his behavior is not only excusable, but idolized, whereas Belle is barely tolerated because she is pretty and her father Maurice is held in complete contempt by pretty much everyone. He is tolerated even less than his daughter, and that tolerance is easily and quickly withdrawn once Gaston realizes that he can use him.

The remake has one scene where it attempts this point, when a younger girl is curious about Belle’s donkey-laundry contraption and Belle tries teaching her how to read, only to be yelled at by the child’s father. But a major conceit of the original story is that Belle is the only person to offer the Beast a serious, genuine redemption, in a world that completely shuns and reviles him. The new film goes out of its way to humanize the villagers, including Gaston and LeFou.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad idea – I think that seeing a film where Gaston is actually the hero might be very interesting – but in the context of the original Disney story, it weakens the clear, unambiguous warning that bullies should be discouraged and intelligence and uniqueness should be accepted and celebrated. Because the curse is now specifically said to have caused people to forget the castle’s existence, the story hand waves away the villagers’ responsibility for their fear mongering and attempts to harm others, whereas in the original, they are driven away and never seen again.

It fixes one problem while creating and effectively ignoring another. I don’t think Belle was automatically dismissive of the villagers; no, clearly they dismissed and belittled her first, and she realized that she cannot change their attitudes. She can only persevere and be herself, and she wishes for a world where such a task is easier, but more exciting and challenging as well.

Who among us hasn’t felt misunderstood and left out at one point, left only with the option to try your best to blend in?

 

You see, when it comes right down to it, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is not without its flaws and problematic elements. But it was a quaint little story with well-paced and well-chosen scenes, which did exactly what was required of them and sometimes no more than that. Fairytales are meant to teach one or two basic lessons in creative settings and situations, but the animators and other filmmakers somehow managed to imbue their adaptation with so much more depth and meaning, far more than anyone would think possible.

The remake, meanwhile, is padded with logical indulgences, and “character development” that is brought up briefly and then never expanded upon, making it seem like superfluous details. The Beast’s tragic backstory and makings of his monstrous new attitude? Barely touched upon, and then forgotten. The significance of Belle’s mother? Not really relevant, and certainly not used to add some connection between her and the Beast, who also had a strained relationship with his parents.

When you watch a film enough times, you start to notice plotholes and logical issues that you once could have glanced over. A good movie is not one that has no issues at all, but simply one that can distract you from them effectively until a few more viewings. Was the original Beauty and the Beast really that distracting and terrible, or is it just that that we’ve all seen it so many times and done all of the jokes and criticism of it to death?

All of the questions that it tries to answer were being supplied by my imagination back in the day. Why was the castle staff cursed along with the Beast, when they technically didn’t do anything wrong? Probably because they kowtowed to his every whim and lead him to becoming extra spoiled and contemptuous of basic human worth when no title or status was attached to it. Why would the Enchantress curse a little boy for one mistake? Probably because people aged faster in the past and children were basically regarded as mini adults once they reached a certain age.

How did Belle get the Beast on her horse if he was unconscious? …Who cares. That’s not what the focus of the story is. It’s fun to crack jokes about, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s unimportant. What is important is that Belle saves Beast’s life, just as he saved hers, and they begin to act more conscious and considerate towards one another as a result. Belle is probably the one person in Beast’s life who has repeatedly said no to him and meant no, and he slowly grows to appreciate and respect that about her.

More than any of the previous remakes, Beauty and the Beast is trying to be the original film, when it clearly doesn’t understand half of what made it work. It’s also trying to update some elements, but not trying too hard, or else we might have had something different and new.

I have tolerated and even genuinely enjoyed some of the other live-action remakes thus far, but at the end of the day, this latest movie drives home what hollow cash-grabs they really are. In the case of the Disney Princess films in particular, they are just new vehicles for selling sparkly dresses and merchandise to little girls under the guise of strong, female empowerment.

Clearly nothing like their original iterations, right?

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Beauty and the Beast (2017): Monstrously Arrogant and Terribly Overrated

Just…go see the stage musical and pretend that Hermione is in place of whoever is Belle. It’s more worth your time and money to do that than to go see this live-action remake.

This is the only one so far that I would not consider buying. And spoilers below, so be warned. I respect every other Disney remake way more than this movie, and I might even go so far as to say that even the cringe-inducing Disney sequels tried harder than this did.

This remake is Diet Animated Beauty and the Beast. I’m honestly appalled that it’s getting as much critical praise as it is (not even audience praise; honest-to-goodness cristcs calling it a masterpiece), because it tries so hard to not just live up to its namesake, but be it as well, and it can’t possibly do so. It just doesn’t understand what made that movie work, even on the most basic, fundamental level.

The music is noticeably over-polished and poorly mixed. It’s the opposite problem of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables; it’s not raw and emotional enough. It sounds like it was just made to sell the soundtrack as close to the “pop” section as it could get.

We (meaning my boyfriend and I) checked to see if it was just our cheap movie theatre that was behind the bad mixing, but no, there are plenty of problems still present in the music itself. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens sound as great as they possibly can, but only the latter has any raw emotion in his voice, and both definitely sound like they’re singing in a studio, rather than in the actual movie. And the in-song dialogue is stripped of all emotion, as the producers were clearly more interested in making everyone sound “pretty” than giving them any semblance of character.

 

Notice how Belle gets really pissed off at the beginning, almost yelling? Imagine in this scene that she has a British accent, and then picture she’s in a chair at the salon casually complaining to her girl friends. That’s essentially how powerful and compelling it is; mild annoyance vs actual shocked outrage.

Yeah, the animators actually put effort into that so-called kids’ film.

Also, Gaston doesn’t get humiliated with a wedding fiasco. Belle shuts a door in his face, and then the next time we see him, he’s mildly disappointed at the tavern. How does this fuel the fire of his depraved ego, making him into the true monster of the movie? What leads him to make the drastic jump of deciding to throw Belle’s father into a mental institution? I have no clue. It was in the original, so let’s put it in here too, I guess!

Incidentally, Gaston becoming a truly crappy human being is paced weirdly, and the seemingly simple catalysts of “I want to marry the hot girl” and “if I can’t have her, no one can” have no backing behind them. It really feels like it only happens here because something similar happened in the original version. Character and morivation are only very loosely connected.

The actors (all good people clearly trying to do their best with crap direction) almost never seem like real people, except Belle’s dad. Belle herself seems less terrified and more put-out most of the time, and otherwise, she’s smiling blandly. I think Watson was trying to be more confident in an effort to seem stronger, willful, and more independent than the original Belle, but it just comes across like she’s not a real human being dealing with a terrifying and stressful situation. She’s not quite at Anakin Skywalker levels of bland, but still not very compelling, which is a damn shame.

 

The original Belle, voiced by Paige O’Hara, was a likeable character who also managed to be human, if a bit more forgiving and kind than most of us would be in her situation. But hey, it’s a fairytale, not an in-depth procedural manual for how to live your actual, real-world life.

Emma Watson has very little charm or character, provided you can take off the rose-colored, lightning scar-shaped glasses. The film keeps telling me she’s odd and different and awesome, like the previous Belle, but she doesn’t show it unless she’s directly speaking, and even then, there’s no genuine emotion or commitment behind the dialogue. There’s a lot of tell, don’t show that happens here, and it’s not just because it’s a musical. The original was a musical as well, practically virtually identical to this one, but even during moments where the characters were silent, a lot of personality comes through in their designs and the “cartoon-ish” animation.

For example, when Gaston comes a-calling with a whole impromptu wedding party, Belle’s eye roll upon seeing him through her peephole is incredibly pronounced, even maybe overexaggerated. But it shows what she’s feeling perfectly and its relatable, which is incredibly important.

That said, Watson does look the part. She is gorgeous and I will always love her, even when her performance is sadly kind of bland and lackluster.

The story is too much retreading of old material (word-for-word dialogue and essentially shot-for-shot scenes), to the point where you can’t help but compare it to the original animated feature. Some things are changed completely, while others are changed not nearly enough, and there is far more of the latter than the former, too much more for my liking.

This isn’t “recapturing the spirit of the original, with some new twists to make it fresh.” This is riding the original’s coat tails and throwing in a few scraps of difference to try to throw us off their scent. This does to the first movie what The Hobbit movies did for The Lord of the Rings: nothing but cheap lip service and inadvertently making you appreciate the early movie even more.

 

The visuals are over-gilded and painful to my eyes; I had to look away for most of the Be Our Guest number, it was so hideous, overcrowded, and just overdone. I don’t care if it’s period-accurate; it’s a Disney movie. Historical accuracy has always been regarded as optional.

The castle never feels lonely, ominous, or terrifying in any way, demonstrated best by the fact that Belle shows up at it during the day, in brilliant sunshine. Sooo dramatic!

But don’t worry. God will still send that out-of-nowhere thunderstorm to the climax for dramatic effect. Some Disney tropes never die, after all.

The wardrobe is hideous and makes no sense. Most of the other objects I can tolerate, but she was too much, with her haphazardly flailing curtains and utter lack of a face. Her actress/singer was totally wasted in this role.

The pacing is whack. I was checking my watch all through the first half, and then, to my surprise, numerous scenes in the second half went speeding by like the Road Runner.

For example, the moment when Beast gets angry about Belle trying to touch his enchanted rose isn’t literally a minute, but it feels like it might as well have been. There’s virtually no drama behind it; Belle barely touches the case, Beast appears and says “Don’t do that,” and then she leaves, looking like the Beast just told her to go to the kitchen and make him a sandwich. I have no idea why she’s running or why she just up and decides to leave after this; the look on her face is minor frustration, and nothing more.

She doesn’t even look all that scared staring down a pack of angry wolves that are about to eat her face off.

That said….the added songs were nice. And some of the jokes were pretty damn funny. And Maurice’s actor is great. Gaston and LeFou were passable. Some of the added scenes were interesting, if superfluous or largely irrelevant.

Why did Belle’s mother getting the Plague matter? I could have sworn they were leading up to some Sweeney Todd-style rape ambush; you know, maybe something related to the fact that she was apparently a weirdo like Belle and her father, and people ganged up on her…?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing was added to Belle and the Beast’s relationship other than her telling him about her family a little bit…Cool? Belle didn’t even know her mother, and was a baby when she died, so I’m not sure why she remembers much or why this is so important to her.

Yeah, I was pretty much right in my pre-movie fears. But even before that, I should have started having misgivings once it was mentioned that they were going to be using the original songs and score. There is taking inspiration and changing context, and then there is copy-pasting in someone else’s work instead of doing your own.

But hey, that’s how the film basically pays for itself. Who needs creative marketing when you have simple brand name recognition?

I tried so very hard to go into this and be fair and objective, but the movie begs so much to be compared to its predecessor, and in that light, it fails miserably. I’d rank it below Maleficent, and it didn’t even have the gall to do the “here is the true version of this story, lost to time and retellings” bullcrap. At least Maleficent was working from an already fairly flawed movie, and tried to switch the sympathy to the villain.

It just feels so lazy. I was of half a mind to go back to the cashier and ask for my money back before we had even reached the halfway point, and not because I was all that angry.
I was bored. I’d seen this all before. It was like going to the stage musical without the novelty of it being live, and after a short time, I stopped wondering how they were going to handle the scenes from the original movie differently. The CG was just so fake and hideous…I almost stopped caring until the “Days in the Sun” scene.

The stage musical, at the very least, had some intrigue. What props will they use? How will they set up and work with the stage? The “movie magic” on the screen isn’t true movie magic anymore. It’s all done with computers. That’s the answer.

The Beast isn’t scary or even all that intimidating. The household objects are confirmed to be frozen in their forms once the last petal falls (left ambiguous in the original movie, but a major plot point in the Broadway musical), and it is needlessly sad, even for Disney. Someone told me to bring tissues, but I wasn’t even crying. And guys, I cry at everything! I cried when Ash got turned to stone in Pokemon: The First Movie, for Pete’s sake!

Honestly, that was the darkest thing about the entire movie, and doesn’t it make the Beast so much more likable that he screwed them over, just for a hot girl?

 

I’m sorry, petrification is one of the most universally scary things ever. Being frozen alive, but aware for the rest of your life sounds absolutely horrible and torturous. Waaaaay worse than being a Beast who can travel anywhere in the world on a whim (the Enchantress gave him a magic book for some reason), and yet this guy just lets Belle go knowing this is going to happen to his servants?!!!! 

If I were one of them, I’d probably beat him with the hardest, sharpest part of myself right up until the very end. Yeesh…and people call the original Beast a jerk.

 

Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with the scene in theory. I have a problem with how unearned and out-of-place it feels in this virtually charmless, wooden movie.

Oh, also, Disney took a page from the original story, in that Belle’s father takes a rose from the garden and that’s what pisses the Beast off initially…lame. It’s not like Maurice went after the enchanted rose or anything. Hell, he took food from the Beast’s table, but no, Maurice. You picked a flower, you heartless thief! How dare you?!

If there anything that the original movie did right, it was picking and choosing what to adapt out of the source material. Maurice trespassing pisses off the Beast, and the Beast only cares about the rose (not a random rose from his garden) because its wilting is tied to his curse. His despair leads him to act more like the animal he had become, and guess what? Animals are territorial. It makes sense on a simple, but also brilliant, level, when you think about it.

What was the point of her father’s taking one leading him to be locked in a dungeon? Also, why is it randomly snowing in Beast land?

 

New Beast still seems too human, but ironically he also doesn’t emote very well, and his voice is princely but not remotely beastly. It’s a wonder that anyone can take him seriously.

There is so much to complain about in this movie that I can hardly keep focused. LeFou is officially gay now, and I’m surprised more people are pleased by that portrayal. I mean, he knows Gaston is doing bad things the whole time, and he seems genuinely regretful,  but LeFou stands by and lets things happen (a near brutal mauling and false imprionsment in a horrible, explicit snake pit insane asylum, need I remind you?) just because he’s got a crush on Gaston.

Once again, I must say, “Wow! How likeable!

 

In the end, Gaston snubs him pretty casually and pointlessly, and that’s all it takes to get him to be a full-on good guy. Not that it amounts to anything. LeFou talks to Mrs. Potts, and then a few scenes later, he appears again with dancing with a new guy….Cool? I guess it pays to be an obvious walking-stereotype that compromises his morals for a hot person and then gives up being a bad guy immediately.

No sir, nothing questionable or poorly-thought-out there…

But hey, I can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t find insulting. Visibility is still visibility, after all, and the “women scorned” trope can probably work just as well on a man…who didn’t seem all that committed in the first place. Last minute redemption, anyone?

I just think it’s weird to praise it simply because it’s Disney. There is a much better LGBT victory AND first from Disney that we should be talking more about, in my opinion…

 

Gaston is okay, but like LeFou, he’s not nearly as despicable as his animated counterpart. His scene at the tavern is probably the best thing in the whole movie, but again, I’d personally rather be watching it live, on a stage. The script tries to make him cartoonishly, unambiguously evil, but it’s more funny than damning.

I’d still rank his acting higher than just about anyone else in the film.

The Enchantress appears very obviously throughout, especially at the end, but we never get her thought process on the terms and conditions of this curse she’s evidentially so proud of. Never once does anyone think to question her about her actions, even when she’s standing right next to them. Mrs. Potts handwaves a short explanation that she and her fellow servants let the king brainwash his son, turning him into a fellow scumbag, but that’s the only indication we ever get of what the Beast’s father was like.

Oh, and if we’re going for realism here, the servants were probably a step up from property, so what choice would they have really had, movie? You want to elaborate on that one a little bit more?

See, the animated movie had its unfortunate or questionable implications, but it didn’t draw attention to them nearly as much as this one does. The remake tries to explain a few things (such as why no one in the surrounding area remembers the cursed ruler of the land and his castle in the nearby woods), but utterly ignores several crucial others.

It DOES answer one very important question right at the end, however…that yes, Belle was very much into the bestiality of the situation.

 

No, seriously. Belle teasingly asks if the Prince-Beast can grow a beard, and he roars at her, making her laugh.

Um….ewwwwww……Thanks for that, Disney. That is one part of the story that I never wanted to seriously ponder.

To cut this disjointed rant short, the new movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s okay. But it is pretty bad and pretty shamelessly just coasting off the love and prestige (duels deserved) of a much better movie. You can argue that all of the Disney remakes, retreads, and sequels do that to some extent, but this film is the live-action iteration that tries the  absolute least, and it’s arguably the one that should least be allowed to get away with that.

Despite their flaws, Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book gave me enough that was new and likeable for me to acknowledge their existence. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, truly feels like a hollow, whore-ish cash-grab, and given what it’s trying to be, that’s depressing.

But hey, Hermione’s in it, so that automatically makes it good, right?

Not for me, thanks. I think I’ll stick with the original, despite how much it traumatized me as a child. At  least it was well-paced and creatively put together by clearly passionate people.

At least that beast had some bite to it.


*3/10

*Please note: none of the images, songs, or video clips in this article belong to me. They are owned by Disney (except the Medusa one). 

 

 

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Pre-Movie Thoughts

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Oh don’t start with me, Total Film! “Darker, smarter,” and more relevant than the original? We’ll see!

But in all seriousness, I’m in a very awkward position here. While I like the original Disney’s Cinderella and genuinely believe that it gets more flack than it really deserves, I was very open to the 2015 live-action retelling. It plays with some elements of the original, fixing things here and setting them back over there, but it keeps with the spirit of the original animated features. We still probably didn’t need it, per say, but I’m perfectly happy with its existence, especially if I can mostly ignore Disney’s hardcore feminist detractors.

But this…this movie gives me some serious reservations.

On the one hand, you have Emma Watson, an awesome actress and all-around person. The film will also have Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson, who I tend to like, regardless of the overall quality of the films they appear in.

*cough cough*
*cough cough*

On the other hand, it’s a remake of one of my favorite Disney movies of all time, and one that made serious bank during the Disney Renaissance of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The story has its flaws, but some of that can be blamed on its roots as an old-school fairytale. It’s still gorgeously animated and well-paced, driven forward by surprisingly simple, but good characters and a writing team that knew just what to cut and cut from the source material to make it more dark and dramatic.

Does it need a remake? I think we can all let out a resounding “NO” to that one. But we’re getting one anyway, and it’s coming from a company that has a pretty high standard of quality, even in its worst flops…except Home on the Range, of course.

So will this new movie be good? Will it have anything to offer that its predecessor didn’t? I am cautiously optimistic, but here are my worries so far, aside from the obvious:

As usual, I have tried my best to ignore the trailers, even though I already know the basic story here. I’m sure the music will be similar, if not identical in most areas, and that’s alright. It is kind of lazy, hollow, and distinctly cash-grabby if you, like me, believe that the movie should be able to stand apart from the original, but whatever. I can look past that choice.

 

Unfortunately, I did catch at least one full trailer (the one featured above) while waiting to see Moana, and unless it was missing some serious context from the movie itself, some interesting, and potentially worrying choices have been made.

For example, it looks as though it is the Beast’s idea to have Belle take her father’s place.

…Why is this a potential problem? Well, think about it. Belle was motivated by desperation, sure, but the choice to have her suggest the trade-off is actually a really good, subtle character moment. It shows the lengths she is willing to go to save someone she cares about, and the fact that she holds to it, even after glimpsing the monstrous Beast in the light, shows real strength, love, and even agency on her part. She finds a way to take as much control of the situation as she can, even in a moment of such crushing defeat, which is yet another reason why I can’t stand the Stockholm Syndrome argument being regularly applied to her.

 

By making this development the Beast’s idea instead, as the new movie appears to, Belle becomes much more passive in that moment, and a very compelling part of her character is lost.

A friend of mine, who was in the theatre with me at the time I saw this trailer, drew my attention to something else. The way that Watson askes the Beast to come into the light is very different from O’Hara’s; the former sounds a lot more defiant and demanding, while the latter is more nervous and curious. It’s as if O’Hara’s Belle noticed something slightly off about this stranger through the darkness, or simply because he was deliberately only moving in the shadows.

Meanwhile, new Belle isn’t intimidated by this guy. She just wants to know who is talking to her.

At first glance, this might seem like it elevates Belle’s character back up, and perhaps it will. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with saying the same line differently. But now, think about the Beast. Even if you weren’t petrified of him, as I frequently was as a child, what is he supposed to be? What makes his change later in the story so compelling?

Could it be the fact that he’s…well, beastly?

beast-angry1 the-beast-is-scary-when-we-first-meet-him1 beauty_and_the_beast1

 

Think back to the scene in the original movie now. Or better yet, watch the clip I included above. Belle finds her father in a dungeon, only to be confronted by a booming voice from the shadows. Robbie Benson’s voice is mixed with that of growling, snarling animals in order to lend him some extra power and inhumanity, so even before Belle sees him, she trembles and stutters at the mere sound of the Beast.

It helps even more if he terrifies the audience as well, and that’s a lot easier to do with pencil and paper than it is with makeup and special effects. The licensed Disney stage musical has a bit of this problem as well, choosing to focus on the Beast’s more petulant side rather than his fear factor.

The only thing terrifying about this guy is his mediocre CG.
The only thing terrifying about this guy is his mediocre CG.

The Beast in the new movie sounds fairly human to me, and without seeing any of the rest of the scene where he and Belle meet in the dungeon, I already feel like his terrifying presence is diminished somewhat by this fragmented exchange. If he can’t successfully scare Belle or us, then in the back of our minds, he’s already not that bad.

Now, the Beast could still be every bit as huge and violent as he was in the original film, but a) that’s a major complaint from the politically-inclined anyway, so they should still complain about it in this film made in modern day, and b) it just won’t have the same weight, even if the actors seeing the Beast do their damndest to look afraid of him.

It also doesn’t help that Belle apparently finds the castle during the day, which tends to be far less dramatic than nighttime, even if the room itself casts shadows everywhere.

The point I am trying to make is this: little choices can make a big difference. However you feel about the healthiness of Belle and Beast’s relationship in the animated film, you must at least agree that the moments defining and developing their relationship are well-paced and well-chosen, even down to the tiniest, nearly subconscious details. That is what makes the original so wonderful…well, at least one of the things. It opened the Academy Awards up to the idea that an animated movie (a musical, at that) could be artistic and moving enough to stand beside its live-action cousins. After a long stretch or relegating animated fare to the “it’s just for kids” bin, Beauty and the Beast (1991) reminded us of its great potential.

The choices made by the new movie may ultimately work on their own, but as I said above, the very fact that the film makers are just porting the soundtrack over from the animated movie begs you to compare the two. At least the new Cinderella only briefly sang “Sing Sweet Nightingale” to herself while she was doing chores in a short scene. That was a cute little winky moment to the audience for anyone who liked the original and might be paying attention, and I appreciate that. It didn’t distract me from the movie I was watching and trying to get invested in.

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I really do hope that this new adaptation will be good, and not just a waste of time that uses strict branding to squeeze more money out of Disney’s vast fanbase. Emma Watson is a smart, beautiful woman, but at the end of the day, a job is a job and actors don’t get a lot of say in directorial choices, let alone the direction they themselves are given. I also really don’t want to see some half-assed retooling to please the social justice warriors. Some of Cinderella (2015) was like that, and I much prefer that if you’re going to change things like that, you should go big or go home (see Ever After: A Cinderella Story). Sure, it might be more abrasive to some people, but at least you’re obviously trying to make the story new, fresh, and most importantly, your own. I can respect the effort and commitment, if nothing else.

I’m starting to lean towards pessimism, but ultimately, time will tell. We’ll see the movie when it comes out, and then we’ll know for sure…

 

Update (3/21/17): Winner winner, chicken dinner. See my new review for more details, but yes…this was a bad one.

*None of the pictures in this post are owned by me.