By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Disney’s live action adaptation of the classic animated film Beauty and the Beast is packed with familiar actors and voices, and is as intricately decorated as the French palace of Versailles, but fails when it comes to everything else.
Belle (Emma Watson) wants ‘more than this provincial life’ and craves excitement and adventure away from her small French village. When her father goes missing she is forced into the forest where she discovers an enchanted castle, and her father being held prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens). After taking her father’s place and remaining in the castle, Belle befriends the enchanted servants and discovers that there may be more to the beast than meets the eye.
The production design of this film is flawless. Bursting with vivid colour and detail. The castle exterior looks like a Tim Burton mansion with a touch of Disney, and even reminded me of the Gaudi inspired Whipstaff Manor in Casper. The interior was equally impressive, as were the servants. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) were the standout characters here, and paid respects to the original both in appearance and part.
We’ve entered a whole new era of CGI as we recently saw with the Pixar looking admiral and Leia in Rogue One, and it’s a little more polished in this film, but why on earth did they have to CGI Dan Steven’s beast? There were times, especially in the iconic dance sequence, that his movements were rigid and almost robot-like. That face was also a bit of a mess. After witnessing the wonders of prosthetic make-up, especially at this year’s Oscars (Star Trek, Suicide Squad), wouldn’t it have been better to just spend a few hours making up his face?
Aside from the dodgy look of the beast, Dan Stevens was good, as he is in current series Legion. Emma Watson however, seemed to be an ill fit for the part of Belle. From the get-go she appears somewhat stagnant and hesitant to give it her best. She did bring a slight feminist quality to the role which I had hoped for, but it really wasn’t that much in the end, was it? She also didn’t really know how to react to the castle environment. The ‘Be Our Guest’ sequence found her looking confused as to which green screen object to look at next.
The performances in general were fairly dull, but that could be due to bad directing. Bill Condon, after all, directed two Twilight movies… need I say more? The dance and musical scenes were a bit lazy too. The singing was muffled and obviously recorded in a studio. Fine, but most musicals at least try to make it seem a bit more realistic. There were never really any decent dance sequences either. The choreography in Gaston’s scene was sloppy and sometimes non-existent, weird since Condon also directed Oscar winning musical Chicago. Maybe it’s time to get a new choreographer? There were a few new songs to sink your teeth into, but none as noteworthy as the originals, and most were just to fill up time and had absolutely no direct correlation with the main story. Was that Paris scene even necessary?
And then there were the controversial ‘gay’ scenes. Disney ‘pushed boundaries’ by saying that they had a gay character and a sort of relationship in the film. I’m glad that they decided to go with the cliche of gay men lusting after their straight counterparts. LeFou is a fool in the film, and is also portrayed as the village idiot. Thanks, Disney. That was the icing on the cake.
Shame, the original was beautiful.