Beauty and the Beast, and the Case of Disney Getting it all Wrong

I have certainly missed the craze of analysis over the Disney live action films. That all happened after the release of the live action Beauty and the Beast, with some people ranting and raving about how much they loved it, and others harshly criticizing the film for its lack of originality. I am far from the first to talk about this film, and I will not be the last. However, I’ve noticed that most criticisms of the film often ignore certain aspects that I felt were especially irking, and fail to connect what happened in this film to the overall live action trend. So I thought I would put in my own two cents, and see where this takes us.

Now, the whole Disney live action trends started with the success of Maleficent in 2014 and Cinderella in 2015, both of which provide different perspectives of the stories told. Maleficent  provides an alternative look at the tales of the original 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, although it was a rather half-baked attempt. I thought that Disney might be getting their footing with the release of Cinderella and Jungle Book, which flesh out relationships and motives and situations just a bit more, without only repeating the story.

I was proven greatly wrong, however, with the release of Beauty and the Beast in 2017.

Not only was the film a straight copy-paste of the original story with almost no additions, but the changes they did make just degraded an already good story. This film, like the other three before it, attempted to correct past criticisms of the original work, despite the fact that the film they are trying to correct something that is negligible. Cinderella provided insight on what happened to her father, which the original film failed to do. It explained why Cinderella dealt with the abuse, something the original film didn’t do. This film tries to elaborate on how the magic works in the castle, something that the original film didn’t need to do.

There it is, folks. This film tries to provide logic to a world of magic, something that didn’t really need to be elaborated on. Like the magic dishes, and some other things that move in the house. Not everything that moves needs to have a soul attached to it, which in turn explains the trashed furniture in the West Wing. The Beast didn’t just straight murder his servants. You can assume that a castle would have furniture in it before everyone else got turned into furniture.

Which leads me to my next problem with the film- the fact that the furniture explain the West Wing to Belle completely ruins a major plot point in the film. They not only convince the Beast to give her a better room, rather than let him make the decision for himself, but also give her a tour of the castle, mentioning the West Wing and thereby ruining the impact of Belle actually going to the West Wing. The betrayal aspect of her going to the West Wing despite his wishes is lost.

Which leads me to my next point: they completely wash out the relationship between Belle and the Beast. They ruin the complex relationship between the characters, making Beast an asshole who needs a life coach, and Belle the life coach, rather than having them learn off of each other. Belle was kind and patient, but could also call out the Beast’s bad attitude in the original film. In this one, they just fight, and he never learns to do better. Their relationship becomes basic and Hollywood-style, and the ending doesn’t feel like it was deserved.

Now, in a turn away from the more interaction aspect, I am going to turn more to the other issues I have with the film. This one can be narrowed down into bullet points.

Belle’s voice:

Why, why, why didn’t they just have an actual singer dub Emma Watson’s voice? Hollywood has dubbed hundred’s of actor’s singing before, and the attempt the avoid this in this film ground my ears out. They auto-tuned Emma Watson’s singing to the point where it sounded like a robot made it, heavily contrasting from the fact that literally no one else has a robotic voice. Literally no one else.

What made it worse was the classic reprise of the song “Belle”, where Belle has a powerful soliloquy (done flawlessly by the original voice actor Paige O’Hara). In the live action version, we just get a shotty, robotic voice that just washes out with the music. Every time she opened her mouth the sing, I would be ripped out of the moment.

Belle’s Dress:

I know they tried to do what they did in Cinderella with giving the dress a much needed update, but it really wasn’t necessary. Unlike Cinderella’s kind of odd-looking dress in the original, there was nothing wrong with Belle’s dress. In fact, her’s was a favorite among many, and was a popular costume for young children. The fact that they tried to change it to something as blase as they had in the live action film got some much deserved out-roar. How do you replace such an iconic dress with something that looked like three pieces of yellow tissue paper stuck together? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Gaston:

Why try to make him unlikeable? The whole point of his original character was that he was attractive, popular, and charismatic, and was easily able to influence the ignorant townsmen into joining him for the “final battle” at the castle.

In this case, he’s a character that is considered untrustworthy by the town, leading to Le Fou paying people to sing and up Gaston’s ego. Such a move was totally pointless. You should have just kept him the same. It would have saved a lot of time on the pointlessness of trying to make him a complex character. Focus on fleshing the two main characters out, not the villain, who didn’t need to be fleshed out.

The Plot Overall:

Last but not least, I have a problem with the plot overall. Let’s face it- it’s just a pure retelling of the original story, with some pointless additions slapped on to take up more time. There was nothing of real value added, degrading the plot of the story. What was changed really had no purpose, unlike the films before it (except Maleficent, but that’s for another time). I came into that film expecting something and left it feeling like the original story was just wronged. Which doesn’t make sense, as the live action version and the original were both made by the same company.

But, that’s the problem with the desire to make money and deal with criticism. It just didn’t work here. It turned what was once an Oscar-nominated film into a straight mess. It was just unnecessary.

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