By Thomas Griffiths

 

Beauty and the Beast is directed by Bill Condon and stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci. It is a live-action remake of the classic animated feature from back in 1991. I’m pretty sure that a lot of you already know the plot of this movie if you grew up watching the original like I did, but for those of you who don’t, this movie is about a young prince who is cursed to live out his life as a monstrous beast because of his selfish nature, and about a young woman named Belle who encounters the Beast and a whole romantic adventure-drama story progresses. Now, I went to see this film the day after it came out, and I wanted to really like this movie as much as I had done its predecessor. And, to be completely honest, I had a blast with Beauty and the Beast.

Emma Watson was an inspired choice to play the role of Belle in this movie; not only did she give a great performance, but she got the personality and the feel of the character just right. She was an interesting character, and I cared about her, and I felt like she did as much justice as possible to the original Disney character. She also had a surprisingly good singing voice, which I also thought would have been pivotal to the casting in this movie. From the first scene she appears in, I bought her as the character and what really impressed me about her performance is what she brought into the role that was new and refreshing somehow – the Belle in the original film was dissatisfied by the life she led, and though Watson captured that to a tee, she also added a very compassionate side to her, like that small scene where she’s teaching a child to read and she’s discouraged because of it.

In addition to Emma Watson as the heroine of the story, we have Luke Evans who plays the main villain of the film, Gaston, and Josh Gad as his lovable sidekick LeFou. Now, going into the movie, I had reservations about Luke Evans’ casting as Gaston, even though the man has proven himself in the past to be an excellent actor. Watching him in this movie, those reservations evaporated: Luke Evans nailed the role of Gaston. Not only was he a despicable character in general, but he was so entertaining, the way he carried himself and how he captured the arrogance, the assurance and, most importantly, the increasingly lustful nature of the character. Josh Gad as LeFou was probably the best choice they could have possibly made for this role – this guy is just so, so funny, so likeable, and he had some fantastic dialogue with Gaston. There is this whole thing about LeFou being gay, and if I’m honest it didn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.

When we get to the castle where the Beast lives and we’re introduced to Dan Stevens as the Beast, that’s where this film starts to get so much better. Dan Stevens did an awesome job as the Beast, for the same reasons that Emma Watson worked as Belle: he made me care about the Beast and all, but there was also some great chemistry between him and Emma Watson. Their relationship and how it progressed was one of the most enjoyable and convincing aspects of the entire movie. What I actually found myself truly loving about the two main characters in this movie, in fact, was that some actual backstory was provided to both of them that made the characters much more understandable and gave a great deal of gravity to the film.

As for the score, the direction and the screenplay, I thought it was perfect. I really appreciated how it wasn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the film, even though it was under serious threat of being so. Bill Condon was great in directing this movie, and Alan Menken’s score got me into the story a lot and added substance to several scenes. Also, the CGI and set pieces in this movie were truly phenomenal, especially surrounding the castle and the forest, and most of all the servants of the Beast – I truly thought that the casting for Mrs. Potts, Lumiere and Cogsworth for Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen were wonderful. The CGI accuracy surrounding the living household objects astounded me.

As for the songs in this movie, the ones from the original are there and they are great, and there is one particular song that I truly loved watching in the film where the Beast laments that he has lost Belle when she leaves to save her father (Played brilliantly by Kevin Kline), and Dan Stevens has a phenomenal voice in that song. I didn’t get bored during the songs I’d heard before because what was happening at the time was so immersive. The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ dance scene was choreographed and directed beautifully.

The third act of this movie is one of the most exciting parts of it, the whole sequence where Belle returns to save her father and Gaston rallies the entire town to kill the Beast; even though I’d seen it before, I thought it was really well-handled. The epic battle at the castle between the villagers and the castle inhabitants is wondrously entertaining and the way they incorporated the household objects into it was so fun to watch. The big confrontation between Gaston and the Beast had some noticeable differences from the original, which I actually appreciated, and the scene where Gaston kills the Beast and is eventually sent falling to his death was a great scene in itself. The whole scene where the Beast died and the inhabitants of the castle started becoming inanimate as the last rose petal fell was jarring, which made it even better when the Beast transformed into a man again and came back to life. That being said, the whole sequence where everything else came back to normal, while entertaining, did feel a little bit formulaic. It was made up for by the dance sequence that culminated in the end of the film, which I thought was great to see.

As for negatives, while the CGI and special effects for the Beast’s appearance was terrific, there were scenes where it did slip a little and looked a little too obvious for CGI. The rest of the time, it seemed very believable that that was an actual creature. Also the opening scenes where the prince is transformed into the Beast felt at first like a different story, and I kind of expected who the Enchantress was going to be in the end. Other than that, I really enjoyed this movie.

Rating: 4/5

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