Beauty and the Beast has long since been one of my favourite stories. So when I found out that Disney were making a live action version of one of my idoloised childhood stories, with my idol and favourite actress, Emma Watson playing my favourite Disney Princess… well, lets just say I was more than a little excited.
Now, the movie industry has a habit of making me excited before it proceeds to crush all my hopes and expectations in front of my eyes over a two hour period. But thankfully, this was not one of those instances!
Upon hearing about certain additions to the original story and the extended running time, I was slightly concerned that Disney had over complicated things, but instead I found these additions did nothing but intensify the story. It added a level of depth the the film that felt as though, to some extent, the film had grown up a little and developed much in the same way that it’s original audience has. In fact many of the additions had me moved to tears.
One of my favourite developments was the now in-depth relationships between the characters. Unlike the original animated movie, we get a little more insight to each character and their relationships. Lumier is not simply a flirty french candlestick, he has a deep love for Plumette and is driven my his desire to hold her in his arms again. We have the added relationship between Madame Garderobe (who is only given a minor role in the animated movie -her highlight being the consumption of one of the mob and spitting him out dressed as a woman) and Maestro Cadenza. But some of the most beautiful developments were the relationships between Belle and her father and Belle and the Beast. In this new adaptation of the film we see far more of a genuine love and depth of feeling between these characters. Belle loves her father dearly, and here we really get to see them interact and talk and we feel that love far more than in the animated movie, we also get to see far more of Muarice’s character which was nice. The main criticism of Beauty and the Beast is often that it glorifies and glamorises Stockholm Syndrome, but I truly believe this new film does an excellent job in dispelling that. Of course there will always be some haters who are going to hate on the film whatever happens, but here we see a genuine friendship and relationship born out of common interests and feelings between Belle and the Beast and we see a genuine affection develop between the two that was beautiful to watch.
The music from the original animated movie is possibly as famous, if not more so, than the story itself. And the new cast certainly lived up to that. Of course, Watson is not a trained singer and at times that does show, but she still sounds beautiful and more than fulfills her singing role. Emma Thompson also does a commendable job, stepping into Angela Lansbury’s shoes with the famed ‘Tale as Old as Time’ and as far as Josh Gad and Luke Evans go in their cover of ‘Gaston!’ well… let’s just say that upon completion of that particular performance I truly had to stop myself applauding in the theatre. It felt almost as captivating as a live West End Production, which I have only ever known to be created once before with Anne Hathaway’s Les Miserables performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Of the original songs, the only one that left me slightly dissappointed was ‘Be our Guest’. Whilst Ewan McGreggor does a spectacular job vocally, I felt a bit like this particular song was messed with a bit too much. ‘Be Our Guest’ is the one song that everyone feels able to sing along with, and the tempo and arrangement was so altered that this wasn’t possible, sadly, which for me, let the performance down somewhat.
Of the new songs, Dan Stevens’s performance of ‘Forevermore’ was incredibly moving and I did find myself subtly having to remove my glasses to wipe my eyes.
Overall, what I found most captivating with this particular film was the extent to which it felt like watching a live performance. A small round of applause broke out once the film had finished and that can only be down to the amazing connection the actors managed to project on us as an audience. Now this is not unheard of in a theatre of course, but in a cinema I have only known it happen once before – again with Les Miserables. To be able to project such a captivating experience through the screen is a tremendous achievement and if this doesn’t go down as one of, if not the, best Disney remake of recent times with at least an award of some sort, I will be just the tiniest bit heartbroken.