Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
From the very first scene to the very last, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is nothing short of breathtaking.
Anticipation was higher than ever for the latest live action fare from the House of Mouse, and it definitely does not disappoint. This is coming from someone who grew up with the 1991 animated film (which was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards). I laughed. I cried. I cheered. It was a beautiful, colorful, Gothic spectacle.
The sets in Beauty and the Beast were truly phenomenal on all counts. That castle gave me chills. It was everything I could ever dream of and more. I also appreciated that Bill Condon and the creative team decided to make the film a lot more time period compliant than the animated film.
There are huge bustles and powdered wigs. The costumes were far more realistic than their animated counterparts. The castle servants were impeccably designed. Cogsworth (voiced by Ian McKellen) was, by far, my favorite design. The Beast was rendered equally well. Once I got over the strangeness of seeing the Beast in live action as opposed to animation, the design elements really grew on me. (I had such issues with his teeth when I first saw him in the trailers.)
Beyond the beautiful design elements, the performances by the cast and revamped script breathed new life into this classic of the second Disney Renaissance. Gone are those ever-pesky plot holes. As a result, the new film really felt fleshed out and was a better-conceived affair. Some of the more problematic aspects of the original film have disappeared.
Without the strong writing, I feel like the performances really would have fallen quite flat otherwise. Emma Watson gives a solid performance as our titular Beauty. The updates to the characters such as Gaston (Luke Evans), LeFour (Josh Gad), and the Beast (Dan Stevens), however, really need to be praise in both adaptation and performance.
Without giving too much away, my favorite scene in the movie is where the Beast and Belle go to Montmartre and discover what happened to Belle’s mother. Stevens tugs at your heartstrings. It is a trend that really follows him through to the end of the movie. Even under layers of CGI fur and horns, Stevens manages to elevate the Beast past anything the animated film could’ve given us. His performance is nuanced and complex which is all rooted in subtle facial expressions, his eyes, and his vocal performance. This is a man who is really, really going places. In addition to his work on Legion, this film is a big foot in the door for the actor. I can’t wait to see him blossom on the big screen even more.
What really blew me away was the new song he performed entitled “Evermore”. Again, even under layers of computer manipulation, his singing voice was strong. It revealed so much of the Beast and how he had changed. It really wouldn’t surprise me if Alan Menken won another Oscar for it.
(Petition to let Stevens sing at the ceremony too, please?)
Evans and Gad were really the true stars of the show. If Disney wanted to make a spin-off film about Gaston and LeFou’s time in the war, then I would be okay with that. Evans is a natural comedian and really lets loose here. Of course, it helps to have Gad to bounce off of. Both of them were extremely comfortable in these roles, almost like they were born to play them. There is a chemistry between them that would be interesting to see outside the confines of a family-friendly film. Both of their voices were as strong as Stevens’. I was really surprised, overall, how amazing these two were.
If you’re feeling at all apprehensive about seeing Beauty and the Beast, then don’t. The anticipation is well worth it. The supposed ‘gay scenes’ that caused quite the controversy are so minimal that, unless you knew what you were looking for, you’re going to miss them. Be prepared to be amazed and don’t forget to take the tissues.
There are some changes in the finale that will absolutely crush your heart if you’re not careful. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to Stevens, Evans, and Gad. Gaston, LeFou, and the Beast are truly the stars of this adaptation. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.