Review By Cecilia Lian (Irvine, CA, USA)
The remake of the 18th-centuries fairytale of “Beauty and the Beast” has been co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films, starring Emma Watson as Belle. Since the fairytale “Beauty and the Beast” is a timeless classic, the anticipation started growing intensely when the film’s announcement released. It is not only because Beauty and the Beast is a cherished fairytale that makes this remake become intriguing, but also because Disney is bringing their most successful classic back to life. As same as the old animated film, the theme of 2017 edition is that it’s important to look beyond surface appearances and learn to love the person underneath. If you are looking forward to seeing a story revolved around love and kindness, it’s okay to watch this 2017 edition of Beauty and the Beast, but if you already watched the 1991 animated film, the remake is certainly not worth to watch. As a fan of Disney films, Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney film. Belle was my childhood heroine. After watching the remake, I can’t help but feel disappointment because I didn’t see how the remake improved upon the original.
The remake was directed by American director Bill Condon. Condon is best known for writing and directing the film Gods and Monsters, which won him an Academy Award. Furthermore, Condon also directed the final two installments of the Twilight series (2011, 2012), and he won for the Golden Raspberry Awards for worst director. It’s not hard to imagine how Condon did in the remake. The remake is 40 minutes longer than the 1991 animated film, but the relationship between Belle and the Beast became strangely rushed. I felt like one minute they hated each other and the next minute they loved each other. Without any connection, I felt that it completely hurt the overall film. The “Be Our Guest” moment is a classic in the animated film. However, In the remake, I didn’t even realize that Belle was there because there were many cutaways to the characters singing “Be Our Guest” without enough involvement with Belle. Even the famous ballroom dancing sequence made me feel a bit underwhelming.
The 2017 edition film adds a little to the old film, answering some questions that the 1991 animated film raises. Answering questions ignored in the old film seems like a big change, but it doesn’t mean the remake improved. Although the original film didn’t answer these questions, it has stood the test of time because not providing answers allows for mystery. It’s not necessary to solve these mysteries because the audience doesn’t need to know. The most useless mystery being solved is that of Belle’s mother. The 1991 film didn’t mention Belle’s mother, and it only mentioned the inventor Maurice and his bookish daughter Belle. In the beginning of the remake, Belle’s father refused to tell Belle anything about her mother. It reveals that there must be something happened to Belle’s mother. During her first time in the Beast’s castle, the enchantress put a spell on a magic book for traveling space and time. Belle uses a magical book to send herself and the Beast to Paris, where she lived as a baby with her parents. The remake reveals that Belle’s mother was a victim of the plague in Paris. It’s indeed a noble sacrifice, but it doesn’t serve much of a purpose within the story. Belle doesn’t change by discovering the truth. Instead, it raises a new question why Belle’s father refused to talk about her mother. Thus, in a two-hour-long film, a scene where Belle discovers truth of her mother’s death feels like a waste of time.
Emma Watson was amazing as Hermione in Harry Potter. She is not a bad actor – she is just not a good fit for the role Belle. She has received less praise for her acting than her activism after Harry Potter, and her Belle is just some sort of variation on Hermione. Watson didn’t bring Belle’s inner beauty and passion to the big screen. Since the remake is a musical, the first thing to consider is singing. The 1991 version of Belle was voiced by Paige O’Hara who has talented singing voice. The songs in the film require a great and strong singer to keep the audience in the world of the film. Watson is not bad at singing – her singing is just not as powerful as the original one. Watching her sing to the hills or through the ruin of castles, I found myself distracted. There were so many times Watson’s singing that were so forthright and strident, making the audience lose their attention.
It’s also important for the audience to feel the love story between Belle and the Beast. In 1991 animate film, the chemistry between Belle and the Beast clicked right away. I could feel that Belle cares about the Beast and is trying to help the Beast. I wanted to see Belle to fall in love with the Beast. In the scene that Belle goes back to the castle to help the Beast, I was nervous because I wanted to see her riding back to save the Beast before bad things happened. In 2017 remake, Watson was acting herself instead of Belle. Her acting is flat and even emotionless. She was dismissive towards the Beast, full of squints. I couldn’t see Belle’s anxiety, and I felt nothing when Watson rides back to the castle. As the whole, I felt more warmth and chemistry between the leads in the animated film.
Overall, the original movie is a classic, but the remake is not as good as the original. Although the remake is over two hours long, you still see nothing really improved. Unfortunately, it’s just a lifeless recreation of the old movie with pointless additions that fail to change anything. Despite the CGI and music in the remake are great, the difference between the remake and the ’91 film is not enough to make you want to see that movie.