The Wheel and Axle

Tale As Old As Time

by on Mar.20, 2017, under Film & TV, Geeky, Literature, Music & Theater, Queer

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As expected, Disney’s live action remake of their animated classic Beauty and the Beast is as magical as the original. Although the new film is quite faithful to the first one, it still does have a few changes, primarily in order to flesh out the backstories and motivations of the characters. Some new songs were added along the way to enhance the story beats and the character arcs. All these resulted in a richer, deeper, and in many ways slightly darker approach to a classic tale that’s, well, as old as time.

Belle has always been lauded as perhaps the first Disney “princess” (despite not starting out as one) to be independent, modern, and who had a level of agency her predecessors never had. In short, she was arguably the first Disney feminist. While Ariel’s entire life goal was to be with a man she’d never really met, and Aurora literally slept while waiting to be rescued by a man, Belle had ambition beyond landing a husband and had moxie that made her fight for what she wanted. In the new movie, this is taken even further as we see Belle being more than just a bookworm; she is as adept an inventor as her father Maurice.

Casting Emma Watson was genius. Not only does she look like Belle, she’s a vocal advocate of women’s rights. She’s Belle minus the Stockholm Syndrome.

It does still baffle me what a bizarre village Belle and her father live in if this bright, young, and pretty woman is considered odd and a practically outcast. If she’s the standard of what a low class citizen is, then the rest of the village better be fantastic and amazing creatures, which they are most certainly not. Apparently, #smartshaming is everywhere.

Now, we also have Prince Adam a.k.a. The Beast. Although he ended up being sympathetic in the original film, here we see more of his backstory that enabled us to understand more of why and how he became to be the douchebag that he had been and which enabled us to see more of why and how exactly Belle was the one who he came to identify with so easily. It is to Dan Stevens’ credit that the Beast’s complexity of character was not lost under the CGI, and the expressiveness of the Prince is seen quite clearly beneath the monstrous visage.

As an aside, I’ve always had a crush on Prince Adam despite the short screen time he got in the original movie. He comes second to Prince Philip (Sleeping Beauty) in my book of Disney crushes.

(Cinderella’s Prince Charming is third. He used to tie with Prince Adam and was perhaps even rivaling Prince Philip. However, I then finally decided that Charming’s really quite stupid to decide he’ll just marry the first lady whose feet fit the glass shoes, I mean seriously WTH. So a few points lost for being a bit of a moron. But he’s still a rich and handsome and kind-hearted moron, so there.)

So anyway, I’m glad that Dan Stevens absolutely did not disappoint as Prince Adam, especially since he also got even more screen time this remake. Mmm. 😍😍😍

As for the rest of the cast, it’s very distinguished. What else can you say about the talents of Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, Luke Evans, and Emma Thompson? We also have Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Audra McDonald. In their various roles, the ensemble manages to be what a supporting cast should be: a great group of characters that enhance the film and truly help make the leads shine. It’s also appreciated that these characters, especially the castle denizens, were given more depth and backstories which provide the audience an even stronger reason to be rooting for them.

And no, I didn’t really feel the uncanny valley effect that at least one commentator posited.

Well, except for Mrs. Potts and Chip and their strangely flat faces super-imposed upon the china.

Meanwhile, it’s rather amusing when most of the characters speak in British accents despite it being constantly noted that we are in France, but then again, that’s almost always true for many Hollywood films set somewhere in continental Europe.

Much has been said about the gay moments of LeFou, but truth be told, it was much ado about nothing. The controversy about “Disney’s first gay character” is over-rated, fanned by media and latched on to by rabid people who need to get a life. Not only were the gay moments part of a relatively benign subplot (other than the fact that LeFou is crushing on an abuvise user who takes advantage of his friendship), but these took nothing away from the experience. Much like the company’s first inter-racial kiss, which was also in this movie but more or less flew under the radar, it was treated just as a normal fact of life. I’m glad Disney is standing by it despite pushbacks from Alabama to Malaysia.

Although I would still hold allegiance to the animated version if I were required to choose, the new film is an enchanting piece of cinema you shouldn’t miss. That said, judging by the hordes of people in all the various jampacked cinemas we tried to get into over the weekend, you probably already have watched it. In which case, let’s see it again!

My Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. With Nathan Mack, Adrian Schiller, Hattie Morahan, Gerard Horan, Zoe Rainey, Henry Garrett, and Harriett Jones.

Directed By: Bill Condon

 

 

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