Featured: Anticipating the new live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’
This week on our Extra Film podcast, we’ll be talking about the 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast, and as you’ll hear on that show, it’s one of my favorite animated films of all-time. Belle, to this date, is by far my favorite Disney princess. She’s the first heroine in Disney’s canon that didn’t need to be rescued by a man, in fact, she’s the one that did the rescuing. This would eventually become somewhat of a trend with other characters such as Mulan (Mulan), Pocahontas (Pocahontas) and Elsa (Frozen) as a few examples. However, it was Belle who was among the early ones to change the conventions of what a female character could be among the Disney formula. In the animated film there are even certain lines of dialogue that blatantly point the finger at old stereotypes. “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas and thinking,” Gaston shouts out at one point. The film is clearly painting a different picture for the Disney princess, while still providing the same endearing qualities we’ve always enjoyed in Disney animated films. As a result, Belle is an engrossing character to me that I absolutely adore.
I love Emma Watson, but she has a lot to live up to. I have no doubt that Watson can deliver, however, I am worried about the possible changes the new live-action version is going to make. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for advancing or rendering new qualities in Belle. We don’t want Bill Condon to do a shot-for-shot remake. However, I’m slightly concerned about the script’s ability to make any changes to Belle feel more impactful, at least based off of the marketing I’ve seen. Any dubiousness I have isn’t relating to Watson herself, it’s more from a screenplay standpoint. Purely from a subjective point of view, I would hate to see such a beloved character come across awkwardly because of the film’s modernization.
On a similar note, the music to Beauty and the Beast is iconic. The fact that Alan Menkin is back to compose the score, while adding new songs, is massively exciting. How is the music going to compare to the original? Are they going to add new elements to the songs and score? Well, I’ve listened to the soundtrack several times already. I’ll just say this for now; the concerns I have for Belle have already been confirmed in updates made to several of the songs. Keep in mind though, I’m basing these thoughts strictly on the soundtrack alone. These changes could work wonderfully in the context of the film. The new score by Menkin, on the other hand, is quite riveting.
With those concerns out of the way, I can now get to why I’m still very excited to see the new Beauty and the Beast. Again, based off of the film’s marketing, I love what Condon is doing here aesthetically. The film feels more like Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth than the original animated Beauty and the Beast. In fact, outside of costuming, the differences aesthetically are quite vast. Perhaps some of the staging is homaging the classic animated film, but it appears to me that Condon is bringing a new and unique approach to the live-action adaptation.
Another enticing element to the new version is the extensive and wonderful cast. I already mentioned Watson, but this iteration also features the likes of Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and so many more. Wow. That is one heck of a cast there. Surely the performances will be great, right? Well, on paper the answer to that is an easy yes. I have a few concerns (none of which are about Gad and his character’s sexual orientation – get over yourself if you have a problem with that), but again it’s mostly due to the script’s attempts at modernizing the material.
Beauty and the Beast is one of my more anticipated films of the year. I love the animated film and I’m excited to see how this new version stacks up. It’s always hard not to draw comparisons, but the 1991 Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite animated films of all-time. In theory, there is no way the live-action film can compete. But I’m not letting that stifle my anticipation, I’m merely going in with the appropriate blinders on so I can judge the new version on its own. And I’m hoping for the best.
What about you? Are you excited for the new Beauty and the Beast?
For what it’s worth, this trailer is one of my favorite pieces of marketing I’ve seen all year.
Here’s what else is coming to theaters this weekend:
The Belko Experiment (limited)
T2 Trainspotting (limited)
13 Minutes (limited)