The release of the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast perhaps wasn’t greeted with the most sparkling reviews it was originally anticipated. It was by no means a bad watch – it looked fantastic, the songs were beautifully performed and it held a pleasant level of charm. But it certainly lacked that special something that I was hoping for, so much so that all I wanted to do when I came out of the cinema was to go home and watch the original and fall in love with it all over again. I’m sure that was the case for a number of people and I imagine that they will also agree with the idea that no matter how good these reboots are, they will never outdo or be loved any more than their animated originals.
Beauty and the Beast of course isn’t the first Disney live-action reboot we’ve been treated to with The Jungle Book and Cinderella released within the last couple of years and we also have a whole host of remakes coming up including The Lion King, Mulan and Dumbo to name a few. In fact, there aren’t many of the iconic Disney movies that aren’t getting the live-action treatment so why are so many of these movies being remade when everyone knows they will never better the original version? Will the new adaptations of these films be rewatched over and over like their animated counterparts are now years after their original release? I don’t think so.
There’s always financial motivation behind reboots and sequels, and there’s no doubt Beauty and the Beast will absolutely rake it in, but you hope that it’s more in an attempt to bring these outdated products into the 21st century and submerge children into a more diverse movie atmosphere. That said, let’s delve deeper into Beauty and the Beast – headed by celebrated feminist actress, Emma Watson. She plays Belle, who was billed as having a job. She doesn’t – she’s an inventor, without pay, so she has a hobby. That’s fine, but what’s her proudest invention? A washing machine…I’ll just leave that there. She may also make out as if she “is not a princess” when all the supernatural furniture attempts to drape her in the finest rags, only to display the iconic yellow dress during the ballroom scene nearer the end and looking absolutely splendent, ultimately contradicting her anti-princess approach.
Now think about the story of Beauty and the Beast as well. Ultimately the message is that inside beauty carries far more power than aesthetically so is the ending of the story, in which the prince’s curse is lifted and his good looks return, truly a positive moral? Granted, these issues are particularly picky and if too much were to be changed, the story would lose a lot of its origin and we’re then talking about a different movie entirely. Nevertheless, the updating of diversity isn’t necessarily as blatant as the producers and many others affiliated with the film have made out.
Moving on to a slightly more obvious issue – live action and the use of CGI. There’s no doubt that the rereleases of Beauty and the Beast, as well as The Jungle Book and Cinderella, look visually stunning. All used CGI in the correct way, musical sequences were beautifully portrayed and generally, they were all enjoyable movies. But there’s something about animation and Disney animation in particular, that offers that something special and more appealing on a visual basis. Take Cogsworth and Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, the beloved clock and candlestick that are brought to life. There’s a much more potent appeal for the animated version of these characters than the CGI adaptations. They’re more whimsical and slightly less sinister looking and ultimately just a lot pleasant to look at.
Again, are the CGI variations of these characters going to be remembered and treasured as much as their animated predecessors? You wouldn’t think so. In fact, think of the original animations that Disney is still making now – Tangled, Frozen, Zootopia, any Pixar creation. These will still be watched in five/ten years’ time because of the brilliant animation, the new Beauty and the Beast probably won’t. And I imagine the same will be said upon the upcoming spate of Disney live-action reboots but I suppose that’s for the new generation to decide and not an old traditionalist such as myself.