So I saw the Beauty and the Beast remake…and I did not like it.
Yeah, I know, I am a heartless monster but let’s get one thing straight, I love Disney. Disney is my childhood, my life; my blood cells are shaped like mickey ears. That does not mean I enjoy every single Disney film created and I’m sure you don’t, either. There are some that are simply not magical. Beauty and the Beast (2017) was one of them.
Maybe I simply was immune to its spell? Or maybe I’m a wicked witch wanting to kill everyone’s hopes and dreams with my criticism? That’s how my sister sees me, an ugly old hag who’s incapable of enjoying anything. A word of criticism out of me and she is ready to smite my wickedness down. I have already prepared my obituary in case she reads this.
But the critism could not be helped. It was practically a shot-for-shot remake of the masterpiece that is the original, only it messed up where the original succeeded. The sets were overwhelmingly muddled and lacked life, the cgi looked atrocious, the acting was flat, the songs felt drawn out and lacked the original zeal, and the pacing, oh god the pacing. All over the place, feeling unbelievably rushed while being ridiculously slow.
Ok, I’m being a bit harsh but I could be much worse. I got claws, I’m capable of tearing this film a part but I’ll keep them retracted… for now.
I feel, however, that certain aspects of the film cannot be kept to myself. These bothered me to the point that I don’t know if I could ever enjoy it. Will there be comparisons to the original? Heck yeah! The films are much too similar to do otherwise, though reason will be applied to my opinion. Oh and there will be minor spoilers, so tread carefully.
Hop on the Magical Book Express!
I really need to get this off my chest: the magic book was the worst addition to the remake. It’s stupid. There was no reason for it! It is used once in the middle of the film and then never brought up again. What was its point? Its purpose? What!?
Sorry. Maybe I should explain. This book allows anyone who touches it to travel wherever their heart desires. A gift and a curse, according to the Beast.Its main purpose is for the two love birds to travel to Belle’s childhood home and explain what happened to her mother. But was it really needed?
No, absolutely not. There are so many other ways this could have been done, that would have had the same, if not greater, emotional impact. Here is just a basic example:
Beast finds Belle in the library; papers, books, and maps are spread throughout the table.
Beast: What are you doing?
Belle: I found this atlas and I couldn’t put it down! All these grand cities, exotic landscapes; I just had to find out more. One thing led to another and, well, here I am! Look at this. It’s Venice. I never knew a place could look so…. so romantic.
The Beast nods in agreemend. Belle goes back to her work. Beast looks at her as she does and is hit with an idea. We follow him as he collects more books that he feels Belle would be interested in. He comes back to find Belle sitting quietly, her face clearly distraught. Beast goes up to her.
Belle: (attempts to sound cheerful) Oh, more books! Thank you.
Beast looks down at one of the books and sees a passage on the Plague.
Belle: (voice is somber)My mother…fell ill when I was very young. She died not long after.
Beast: I’m sorry.
Belle goes back to her books. Beast keeps looking down at the passage.
Beast: It’s hard growing up without a mother.
Belle looks up at him. She realizes that he understands the heartache she feels. He looks down at her. They smile, showing their sympathy and understanding of what they other must feel.
Now, this is not perfect, not by any means. However, the concept works so much better. It mixes Belle’s love for books and adventure, shows that the Beast cares for her, and offers a quiet, yet powerful moment between the two. There is no need for any enchanted item; the only magic needed is their chemistry.
I Could Show You This, But I’ll Tell You Instead
This movie does its best tell the audience everything they need to know. Every. Single. Thing. Exposition to move the plot forward, character’s actions/feelings/thoughts, jokes; everything was told to us, so very little shown. It’s a shame since the original did this so well.
This is a major problem. The point of a visual medium is to show. Constantly telling the audience everything not only ruins the immersion, it’s insulting to their intelligence.
Let’s look at two example (specifically songs) to understand this a little bit better.
Example One: Belle
So, let’s look at a specific part in this song. Belle is speaking to a villager, who asks what she is doing. She tells him that she is returning a book.
Belle: The bookshop. I just finished the most wonderful story, about a beanstalk and an ogre…
Villager: That’s nice. Marie! The baguettes! Hurry up!!
Belle: To return this book to Pierre Robert. It’s about two lovers in fair Verona.
Villager: Sounds boring.
Let’s quickly look at Belle’s dialogue. This is the first point in the movie that we see her love of books. Now, any booklover would want to tell just about anyone what they are reading in great detail. Why not? If what they read was interesting and inspirational, they wouldn’t be able to keep it to themselves.That’s exactly how Belle in the original sounds. You know she loves book purely on her enthusiasm.Remake Belle just doesn’t quite have the right enthusiasm to be convincing. She just likes books a lot; the original has a love affair with books.
Now the villager. Perfect example of show don’t tell. The Remake villager tells Belle and the viewer that he finds her book boring. The Original villager cuts Belle completely off and goes on with his work, showing that he is not interested and has other work to worry about.
Here is the thing about the line in the original, it’s memorable. Fans of the classic are obsessed with this line. It’s funny, it’s quotable, it’s perfect. There is only one thing to say about the remake’s line: it sounds boring.
Example Two: Gaston
At the end of the song, LeFou attempts to spell out Gaston’s name. While it’s in the remake, it is only heard in the soundtrack of the original.
And his name’s G-A-S (struggles a bit) T.
And his name’s G-A-S-T, I believe there’s another T.
It just occurred to me that I’m illiterate and never actually had to spell it out before!
I’ll be honest, I was insulted by the remake’s version. Yes, that’s right, insulted. I was excited hearing the start of these lyrics. It’s the version of the song I know by heart. It hit the nostalgic feels having it in the remake. Then they took it too far.
Why does the remake think it needs to TELL us that LeFou is illiterate? It’s supposed to be funny. Ok, fine but why does the audience have to spoon-feed the joke? We are not all Einstein but I’m pretty sure we can figure out a joke.
And that’s the problem with the remake. It feels like it has to hold our hands throughout its entirety. It’s insulting to both adults’ and children’s intelligence. There’s no need for such coddling. NONE. There are many other children’s movies that don’t do this and, guess what, these have stood the test of time, becoming classics in their own right. Sort of like the original…
Welcome to…the Dungeon
This scene. Ohh this scene. I cannot express just how much I detest this scene in the remake. I tolerated everything before this; it wasn’t great but I dealt with it. But this. This seeped into the very essence of my brain and would not leave me for the rest of the movie. Let’s take a look at both version, shall we?
It’s the scene where Belle finds her father in the Beast’s dungeon. And well… let’s just take a look at both version, shall we?
Belle is pleading for her father’s life, she then offers her life in exchange for his. The Beast hesitates and makes her promise that should she take his place, she could never leave the castle. She asks to see his face. Though repulsed, she agrees, saying,
“You have my word.”
Belle is pleading for her father’s life but fails. As she would never see her father again, she asks the Beast if she could say goodbye. Belle hugs her father, but as they bid their tearful farewells she whispers, “I’ll escape,” pushes him out of the cell and shuts the door.
The remake doesn’t seem all that bad, right? It could even be considered an improvement to the original. Belle is made a stronger character by taking control of the situation. She may be taking her father’s place but she is determined to get herself out. She don’t need no man (sorry…so sorry…).
Why does this bother me, then? Why does this leave a disgusting taste in my mouth? One word: sacrifice. Belle in the original may not have quite the same drive as her remake counterpart but she is stronger than most characters on screen or in books.
Think about her character for a moment:
This is a woman who wants adventure in the great wide somewhere, who wants it more than she could tell.
In this scene, she is willing to give ALL of that up to save her father. And keep in mind, this is before she is given the nice, fancy room; as far as she knows, she is going to spend the rest of her days in a cold hard cell. Her dreams did not matter anymore, her father’s health and wellbeing did. How could she go off on adventures knowing her father was left dying in a cell? It takes a lot of courage to make such a sacrifice, and this Belle was willing to make it.
Watching the remake, it is apparent that they are making Belle this strong, female role model. That’s why they changed this scene; to make her this kick-ass character (and by kick-ass I mean she’s taking action to which audience members would yell, “Hell yeah! You go girl!”, not that she actually kicks some ass, though that would be quite a change in character). But there are so many ways for a female character to be strong and independent. Why must they always have this kick-ass persona? That’s why I have respect and admiration for the original Belle; her inner strength and sacrifice is something we all should aspire to.
Yeah, so I really did not like this remake. It’s not god-awful or anything but it does not deserve the hype it has. I’ve come to the conclusion that much of it revolves around their focus; it was in the wrong place. Rather than trying to tell a story, the filmmakers focused on updating and improving the 1991 classic. But, let’s face facts, you cannot improve a classic. Why? Because despite the flaws and plot-holes, there is nothing to truly fix…
AND IF AIN’T BAROQUE, DON’T FIX IT.