Beauty and the Beast movie review: Emma Watson is the weakest in this visually gorgeous remake
Another Disney film, and another winner — it seems like there’s just no stopping the company from belting out high quality films.
To be honest I was a little apprehensive of a live action remake of a classic animation film. Surprisingly, whether or not you’re a fan of the 1991 film, you’ll find Beauty and the Beast to be an enjoyably fun remake and also a visually gorgeous time at the cinema.
Directed by Bill Condon (Mr Holmes, Kinsey) Beauty and the Beast brings back everything you loved about the 1991 film and adds a layer of live action beating heart. This is clearly a soft reboot of in a way, intended to create a new generation of fans of the story. In a prologue we’re quickly introduced to a young French prince (Dan Stevens) who is transformed into a hideous creature after he behaves ungentlemanly with an enchantress.
He’s cursed to remain in this form until he finds someone to love him back. A beautiful young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) finds herself trapped in the beast’s castle and slowly begins to realize the human underneath the monstrous skin.
You expect a big Disney film to look good so the fact that Beauty and the Beast offers some stunning visuals is predictable. Seen on an IMAX screen it’s quite an experience to witness the gigantic and ornately designed walls of the beast’s castle. The secondary characters, including a candelabra named Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a mantel clock (Ian McKellan), a harpsichord (Stanley Tucci), a teapot (Emma Thompson) are all beautifully animated and also double as the film’s comedic relief. Also impressive are the makeup effects of the beast — it’s impossible to figure out if Steven’s beastly avatar was done with physical makeup or motion capture or CGI. The beast is a tragic character and thanks to the intricate detailing its easy to sympathize with him despite his hideous looks.
Some of the tunes from the 1991 film make a comeback, injecting a solid boost of nostalgia into the film. After the live action versions of Cinderella, The Jungle Book and now with this film Disney has figured out a way to both pander to the nostalgic audiences and reel in newcomers and let them discover why these films became classics in the first place.
But there’s another achievement that probably won’t get much attention but it’s a big deal.
Some of the classic Disney stories, when looked at now, come across as regressive – especially the ones which are about a princess whose only aim in life is to wait for a prince to come and save them. This problem has been rectified in most of the recent Disney films – in fact this film has an openly gay character, but is presented as a regular bloke and not as someone or something ‘different’.
Also interesting is the discussion the film can provide to the young ones watching the film – about the moral consequences of one’s actions and humans’ natural proclivity towards greed. A little less interesting, however, is Watson as Belle — it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is disappointing about her but there’s little newness that she brings from her work in the Harry Potter films. Her persona is so naturally ‘wealthy’ and recognizable that it’s hard to completely believe she’s playing someone else.
A newcomer in the role would probably have been a much better choice.