A live action recreation of the 1991 Disney animated classic of the same name, Beauty and the Beast was one of the most anticipated films of 2017. So anticipated, in fact, that according to Disney, the first teaser was viewed 91.8 million times in its first 24 hours, making it the most viewed teaser trailer in history and beating films like Captain America: Civil War and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. According to The Guardian, 27 million of those views were on the Facebook page of film star, Emma Watson. Families now finally get the chance to watch Emma on the big screen taking on the role as the Hermione-like Belle, an intelligent young woman with big ambitions in a small French provincial town. Alongside Watson, Dan Stevens was cast as the Beast, Luke Evans as the vain and villainous Gaston and Josh Gad as Gaston’s silly sidekick and comic relief, LeFou.
Prior to Beauty and the Beast, Watson had been offered the role as Cinderella in Disney’s 2015 film but rejected it, as well as dropping out of the lead role of Mia in the Oscar-winning musical film La La Land, but now the time has come to see her starring both as a Disney princess and in a musical. Coincidentally, Ryan Gosling was offered the role of the Beast but rejected it to take part in La La Land. Dan Stevens took this role instead, and proved himself to be quite the charming prince. As for Josh Gad, this is his second time taking on the role of a funny Disney sidekick after voicing Olaf the snowman in the 2014 animated movie, Frozen. Meanwhile, Luke Evans comes from a musical theatre background, so this film serves as a return to his roots. In his own words, “Musical theatre has never left my blood.”
Apart from the same storyline, the original and remake also share the loved and acclaimed songs from the 1991 original soundtrack by Alan Menken. Not only this, but three new songs were added: “Evermore”, a moving solo performance by the Beast, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Days in the Sun”.
Much is to be said about this almost perfect live action recreation, the most important thing being whether it is true to the original or not. Some things were changed: for example, the film featured the first ever openly gay Disney character, being LeFou, made explicit by a particular 3-second moment that caused controversy and ban in theatres in Malaysia, Kuwait and Russia. In addition to this there were only minor changes: Other slight modifications to the plot include Lefou changing sides to Belle and the Beast’s team, the romantic relationships between the inhabitants of the castle, such as Lumière and Plumette and Maestro Cadenza and Madame de Garderobe, which only made the story even better, more credible and more charming than it was to begin with.
As UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and feminist icon, Watson decided to make some changes to the original version of Belle, turning the character into a strong, independent, modern woman. She stated in an interview that Belle’s father’s role was to be less dominant as an inventor. This was then transferred onto Belle’s character instead, whereby she develops an ingenious method to make the laundry less of a burden. Other ideological statements include changing Belle’s original attire from heels to boots, her apron becoming useful as a belt which can at times be seen tucked into her skirt to make her hands-on domestic work more efficient, and finally, Watson refused to wear a corset under that stunning yellow gown. Additionally, over the course of her press tour, Watson attempted to raise awareness for the need of an environmentally conscious style, also visible during the film: the red cape is made entirely out of “eco-sustainable and organic” material.
Nothing is ever perfect, and of course neither is this beautiful recreation. One such aspect is Disney’s aim to portray Belle as an empowered woman, but it has been argued by critics that Belle suffers from Stockholm’s syndrome, falling in love with the Beast that encaptured her. From Watson’s point of view as a feminist, she does not believe that Belle suffers from the syndrome, hence why she took on the role. Nevertheless, according to Elite Daily, it can be argued that Prince Adam’s actions, who never actually apologised for Belle’s imprisonment and manipulation, are not successfully portrayed as wrong. Furthermore, auto-tune was very evident in certain scenes, most noticeably in Watson’s voice during “Belle”, also causing her to lack emotion in this way. However, one cannot argue with the satisfaction that the audience is given by the way that she tosses chicken seed – no one can toss chicken seed in frustration like Watson.
The film has so far been an enormous success, taking $350 million just during the opening weekend worldwide according to the BBC, marking the best opening for a Disney live action remake yet. If you don’t see it, you will be the only one who hasn’t. Watson is a real delight, both on screen and on tour – Watson said in an interview that the way she imagined Belle’s post-wedding actions to be making the library public, and turning it into a school. The stunning visuals throughout the film, including the costumes and the “Be Our Guest” scene in particular together all make for an definite improvement of the already successful, magical original.
-Femke & Catalina