Beauty and the Beast SPOILER-FREE Review
I have been really excited for this live action rendition of Beauty and the Beast for quite some time. I loved the original animated movie as a kid. Even then, I understood that it was something remarkably mature. While I haven't watched it in a very long time, I still hold very fond memories of it. With Disney's prior success with Cinderella and The Jungle Book, I was very eager to see what they would do with Beauty and the Beast. In my opinion, this is the best cast of the year. You have Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGreggor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Luke Evans, Josh Gad... and the list goes on. It is absolutely stacked with talent, and that alone made me excited to see this movie. And I have really liked the trailers they've put out. We haven't seen a ton of the movie, but from what we have seen, it looks like they're really recapturing the magic of the original. And if there was any adaptation that should stick as closely to the original as possible, it would be Beauty and the Beast. So I went in with pretty high expectations, and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. While this version does have its shortcomings, it effectively translate the original animated film into live action, and captures a lot of what made the first one so special.
After the disappearance of her father (Kevin Kline), Belle (Watson) discovers a mysterious castle filled with anthropomorphic household objects in servitude to a Beast (Stevens). Throughout her time at the castle, Belle learns to look past the Beast's ugly demeanor, and see him for who he truly is inside.
The overall look of this movie is fantastic. Everything from the production design, to the costumes, to the character design is flawless. Director Bill Condon did a masterful job working with all the different departments in order to capture the look of the original film. That may sound like an easy feat, but it really isn't. Not only did they have to capture the look of it, but they had to capture the feel of it as well, which they did in spades! I was immediately whisked away into the world of the animated film, which is a high compliment. I think a lot of the technical aspects of the film are what really shines. The CGI works, for the most part. I'll talk about the Beast in a minute, but I thought the CGI for Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and all the other appliances were top-notch. Not only did they look great on their own, but they blended well with the real world. Nothing stood out as looking fake when they interacted with Belle, which is more than I can say than with the Beast. But I'll get into that in a minute. The songs were also perfectly recaptured. From the choreography to the cinematography, these scenes were flawless. All the songs, from "Belle" to "Gaston" to "Be Our Guest", were excellently realized, and effectively translated into live action. You can tell Condon put a lot of time and care into making sure they worked, and he absolutely succeeded in doing so.
I thought all the performances were fantastic! Emma Watson was excellent as Belle. I think many will overlook her performance in favor of some of the other supporting actors, but she really did an incredible job carrying this movie. Overall, Dan Stevens was fine as the Beast, but I thought it was a role really anyone could have played. Maybe his CGI was too distracting for me, and I missed a lot o the nuances of his performance. Luke Evans absolutely shines as Gaston. This has to be one of his best performances he has ever turned in. He fit the character perfectly, and was radiant every time he was on screen. He practically stole the movie for me. I really can't praise him enough. I was very impressed with Ewan McGreggor as Lumiere, considering he had to learn a French accent for the film. Not only did he have to learn how to speak in the accent, but also how to sing in it. That was truly impressive. Ian McKellen was Ian McKellen. He was great as he always is. But Emma Thompson stole every scene she was in. She was magnificent as Mrs. Potts.
I have two main criticisms of the film. I don't think this truly stands on its own, without the animated movie. A lot of the depth and the emotion is left in the original. This certainly hits the story and visual beats, but I don't think it captures the emotional core of the animated film as effectively as it did the look of it. It worked for someone like me, because I was able to superimpose the emotion from the animated into the live action movie. But for someone who is watching the live action film without having seen the animated original, I think this would ultimately be very flimsy. I also don't think enough time was spent developing Belle and the Beast's relationship. For something so imperative to the movie as a whole, a simple montage didn't suffice. You needed more in there to really sell it. Again, I bought into it because of what I knew from the animated film, but it didn't have a fleshed out, developed relationship on its own. I also thought the Beast's CGI was pretty bad. There were a few shots that looked good, but for the most part it didn't look finished. The design wasn't itself bad, but the actual execution with the CGI just did not work. It feels like they needed a few extra weeks to perfect it. We've seen CGI that does work, in films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. You can have a CG character be the center, and it can work. But for this film, it just didn't. And because I was so distracted by the Beast's CGI, I had a hard time buying into him as an actual character, instead of just a digital effect.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a magical film. It may not capture all of the magic of the original animated movie, but it certainly does a serviceable job. The main cast is all fantastic. Emma Watson carries the film brilliantly. Luke Evans nearly steals the entire movie with his performance as Gaston. Ewan McGreggor and Ian McKellen are both great as Lumiere and Cogsworth, but Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts stole the spotlight. The production design and costumes all looked fantastic, and the songs were brilliantly realized on screen. However, the emotional core of the animated film didn't translate as well as the other elements. This rendition doesn't stand very strong on its own, and kind of relies on the animated movie in order to exist. The Beast's CGI was also not very good, and distracted me from buying into him completely as a character. The development of his and Belle's relationship was also rushed, and not enough time was spent on it to fully flesh it out. In the end, Beauty and the Beast does have its shortcomings, but it works for the most part to give us a great live action adaptation of the original classic animated film.
What do you think? Have you seen Beauty and the Beast? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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