In 1991 the Walt Disney Company released their newest Princess “Belle” in a blockbuster movie “Beauty and the Beast”; a movie filled with lovable characters, enchantment, extraordinary iconic songs and a powerful message.
In 2017 the Walt Disney Company decided to release a live action version of that hit classic bringing Belle and the Beast to life. I must say I was a skeptic. For one it’s hard to out-do the original; and two it never is the same as the original which can cause it to be a stunning disappointment; but if anyone could pull it off, it’s Disney.
The cartoon version released in 1991 depicted a prince cursed by his horrible nature and greed by a hag who called upon his help. The hag was simply a disguise of an enchanted being who was looking for kindness and compassion. For his lack of compassion and black heart of greed he was changed into a beast and all his staff into material objects. He could break the curse if he could find a way to love and have someone love him before the last rose petal falls on his 21st birthday. The cursed Prince realized this would never happen – how could anyone love a beast? This sent him into a deep depression and only fueled his temper.
One day Belle stumbles upon the castle looking for her father who was imprisoned by the beast. Her love for her father forced her to take his place so he wouldn’t die from his illness. Through time she falls in love with the beast – looking further than his skin to realize he was something more. Eventually the curse was broken.
It’s been said (not verified by this magazine) that the original writer had AIDS, a topic that was extremely taboo in 1991. Anyone that had the disease was looked at as someone disgusting and feared because we weren’t sure how AIDS was transferred (sex, saliva, physical touch) but we knew it was a death sentence. The writer saw himself as a beast from the disease and wondered if anyone could look past to see the amazing individual that lied behind the curse of the disease. If that’s true or not I am not sure but wow, what a story!
Knowing this story, knowing how iconic the songs are and how stoic the characters are I knew Disney would have to maintain that to make this live version a success. They would need to stick to the story as much as possible to capture the magic we all fell in love with.
I have to say that they did their job!
The movie was breathtaking from the lighting, sets, costumes, and the music. The CG was incredible and the whole movie was mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Emma Watson (Belle) was a perfect selection. Her ability to play the strengths of Belle, while holding true to her beliefs and exposing her true beauty were second to none.
The character of Gaston was more profound in this version than the original. In the original we knew he was self absorbed and egotistical but we didn’t know if he was a villain or a hero; we just knew that Belle had no interest in a man that other women fawned over. In this movie the actor brought that ego and self absorption to a whole new level, we saw the evil and maleficence that lied in his heart that Belle easily saw. We saw how conniving he was and you truly hated him from the start. A job well done by a genius actor.
The Beast was shown in a way we were used to but realized that he was very educated something we didn’t know in the original. We also learned how he got his mean streak and dark heart which made it even more amazing when the love shined through.
Many people made a huge fuss over the openly gay character “LeFou” Gaston’s manservant. I had a suspicion LeFou was gay in the cartoon but nobody cared; this version just reiterated what we all really knew. The alleged controversial “kiss” never happened between LeFou and Gaston and people made a huge ta do about NOTHING.
The one aspect of the movie, besides the characters, that I loved was it exposed things we didn’t know in the first one. Like “why Belle’s mother disappeared”, “what happened in the time between when Belle helped heal the Beast and when they started falling for each other”, and “what happened to the beast to turn him so angry and judgmental.” All of these are explained in the movie but I won’t be a “spoiler” on these, you’ll just have to watch to find out the answer.
This movie was masterfully made and one movie I encourage everyone to see. It will be a part of my DVD collection when it hits stores.