Monday, April 10, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" (2017) -- Initial Thoughts

Yes, I went to see this after all.  I'm happy to report that my misgivings were for naught, my whinings were in vain.  Gaston as portrayed by Luke Evans was not a boorish, ridiculous joke.

He was so much worse.  But in a good way.  I'll get to that.

I have only seen the animated Beauty and the Beast (1991) all the way through twice.  The first time was in college, and the second was a couple of years ago when a friend loaned me her copy because it is her favorite movie of all time.  I just have never liked it all that well -- and the fact that so many people expect me to like it has irked me for a long time.  Belle loves books.  I love books.  I must be just like Belle, right?  I must love Belle!  She must be my favorite Disney princess, right?

Wrong.  And I never quite knew why Belle and I didn't click.  Today, I think I figured it out, though!  It has to do with how she spends so much of the first part of the movie insisting "there must be so much more than this provincial life."  She hates living in a small town where everyone greets her in a friendly way.  (How dare they?!)  She looks down her nose at everyone who lives there.  She laughs up her sleeve at them because they're different from her, then gets all insulted when they don't like her because she's different from them.  Like the Beast, she needs to quit assuming she's better than everyone around her and stop judging people based on their appearances.  Sure, sure, the villagers are close-minded and don't like it when girls learn to read.  But it feels like Belle has spent the whole time she's lived here feeling -- even saying -- she's better than everyone around her, and that's not going to make you any friends.  That's not a kind way to live your life.

Belle, in my opinion, is not particularly nice in the beginning of this movie or the animated version.  In her own way, she's just as self-absorbed and conceited as Gaston.

Also, I happen to like small towns and open countryside.  I was ever so much happier living in a small town than I was in the two big cities I've spent too many years in.  When we bought a house, we found one with trees and a back yard and the illusion of not being in a city because I can breathe easier here.  So nope, I don't have a ton in common with Belle, folks.  EDIT:  I don't mean for this to sound like I dislike Belle!  As she grows and changes, I like her better and better.  I really enjoy how her character arc mirrors the Beast's.

Her dad (Kevin Kline) was really awesome, though.  I would totally be friends with him.  But he was not my favorite character in the film.  The Beast was.

In the animated version, I liked the Beast okay.  Mrs. Potts was probably my favorite character in the animated movie, and I definitely do dig her here (Emma Thompson is high on my list of favorite actresses!).  But in this new movie, the Beast is hands-down my favorite character.  Which makes sense, right?  Sad backstory.  Lonely.  Broody.  The most Byronic hero of any fairy tale I have yet encountered.  How am I not going to like him?

So, yeah, the CGI wasn't always on.  Actually, I thought his facial animation was excellent -- it was the wide shots where his movement didn't always look natural.  Coulda used the Andy Serkis touch, I guess.  But there weren't a ton of wide shots anyway, so oh well, not a big deal for me.

But back to what was a big deal for me, namely an actor I very much admire playing a character I very much despise.  Happily, I am no longer mad at Luke Evans for taking this role because it is sooooooooooooo much better than the animated Gaston.  This Gaston has issues, folks.  He was a captain in a war, and he has come home feeling like he no longer fits in.  He's tense and edgy and dangerous.

In the animated version, I find Gaston annoying and irritating.  He's not much of either here.  Yes, he pursues Belle against her repeated insistence that she won't marry him.  But he's not so much clueless as relentless.  He knows she doesn't like him, and he doesn't particularly care.  He wants her, he gets what he wants, so he's going to get her.  He's still a bully, but a believable and therefore a frightening one.

Years ago, I went from "I like Luke Evans as Bard in the Hobbit movies" to "I Need More Luke Evans Right Now" when I discovered he could sing, and sing well.  And what really convinced me I needed to go see this after all was Luke's wonderful voice.  I went to Barnes & Noble all by myself (a rare treat) right after the store opened one morning, when it was so quiet inside, I could hear the music they had playing.  Which happened to be the soundtrack to this.  And every time I knew Gaston might be singing, I'd drift toward a speaker and stand under it, enjoying Luke's voice.  By the end of the soundtrack, I'd decided to go see this after all.  And I'm glad I did.  It was fun.  Not a movie I loved, but one I did enjoy.

Though, interestingly, my favorite song is not one of Luke's, but "Evermore," the Beast's big solo.  Man, that song gets to me!  I also listen to "Be Our Guest" a lot because I just 100% love Ewan McGregor's voice.  His Lumiere was a constant delight, as was Ian McKellen's Cogsworth.

Lots of people have talked about the whole "exclusively gay moment" controversy.  Yeah, it was there, and yeah, I was annoyed.  Just like I was annoyed by the cross-dressing cowboy in Disney's The Lone Ranger (2013).  Unnecessary to the plot and only there to make a statement.  Grr.  If you want to read a really good article about not only the LGBT content, but also about the Christian themes lurking between the story's obvious layers, I recommend this one.

Is this movie family friendly?  Erm, sorta?  Scary, scary wolves.  Angry and violent villagers.  Some vague, campy LGBT content played for laughs.  I'm not taking my kids, mostly because of the scariness level.  They haven't seen the animated version yet, so I've promised I'll let them watch that because I can fast-forward through the wolves here at home.  I'll just have to close my eyes for the Gaston parts and imagine Luke Evans instead.


  1. As an INFP, it's fairly normal for Belle to crave people who understand her, who are different like she is, and for her to want more than she has; it's high Ne. That itch you can never fully scratch, the need for newness, for more. I have it. :P

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed it overall.

    I thought the animation was bad, but the castle design was good. And if you haven't already, check out "Evermore" by Josh Groban. It's gorgeous.

    The gay moments were largely non-issues for me. I guess after having gay characters in everything else, I'm used to it. (Or as one dry-witted person said: "You mean the original LeFou wasn't gay?!")

    *clicks the link, off to read*

    1. Yeah, I'm not saying Belle isn't a good person, and I really like how her character arc mirrors the Beast's. But I don't relate to her, and people are always like, "You love books, how do you not love Belle?" and now I know. I just don't relate to her or like her initially. Later on, I like her fine.

      The animation of the castle's objects was definitely better than the Beast, which was a shame, but oh well. I do have the soundtrack, so I've listened to the Josh Groban version several times too by now. I like the movie one better, though.

      I think if the filmmakers hadn't made a big deal out of "look how inclusive we are!" I would have shrugged those moments off more. But instead, I'd been made so hyper-aware of them that they felt forced and in-your-face. (And yeah, the original LeFou = pretty gay too.) They didn't ruin the movie so much as yank me out of it every time and make me roll my eyes and have to settle back into the film again.

    2. I never really understand the term "relate to" -- people (this isn't directed at you) throw it around a lot; like, well, this character was homeschooled, you should relate; this character loves books - you should relate. To me that's like saying, "This girl is female, and so are you, so you should RELATE to her." And I don't. I almost never relate to a character. I like them. Once in awhile, I feel a mild sense of "yeah, I know how that is," but to me, "relate" has to be something stronger... and I've never found it, really.

      Do you have to relate, to love? I don't think so. I like Belle; I don't relate to her. I get her desire for "more," and her dissatisfaction with ordinary conversation, but.. we're not the same person. For one thing, I'm real. ;)

      I love the animated version, it's exquisite, so for me the animated objects in this one felt stiff, and not-real. Animation allows for tremendous emotional expression and facial expressions; these characters felt extremely subdued. I liked the story most when it deviated from the original and was innovative.

      Well, the director is gay, so he decided to make a big deal out of it. Funny how that took center stage in the discussion when... isn't this also the first Disney film to have inner-racial relationships? Not just one but TWO of them?

    3. Charity, I do get that. I have a huge attraction to making comparisons, part of which also involves comparing myself to characters. I have quite a few characters I call "Me Characters" because I relate very strongly to them, which means that if I were in their situations, I think I would behave and think and feel the way they do.

      I don't have to relate to love. I don't relate to Sherlock Holmes at all, but you know I love him dearly. But often relating to a character will help me like them better, if they're not already someone I would like.

      I really never *got* why they were making this movie, to be honest. When they first announced it, I thought it would be like the new Cinderella, a totally new retelling of the story. That would have been awesome, I think. When I found out they were telling the same story with the same songs and even basically the same costumes and dialog, I was like, "Why?" I don't see the need for this movie to exist, actually, but since it does, hey, I did enjoy it.

      Is it the first Disney film with inter-racial relationships? Captain Jack Sparrow and his decidedly non-white female acquaintances (and presumably former paramours) aside, I guess it might be. Maybe the fact that nobody sees this as revolutionary is a good thing and means we as a society are moving past caring about that?

    4. I compare myself to characters too, but instead of looking for our similarities, I wind up at our differences: I WOULD NEVER DO THAT. :P

      You know, the ONLY character that has ever been "me" on-screen is the main female from "The Man in the High Castle" series. She makes the same mistakes (from kindness) that I do, but she's also way more naive; I'd be MUCH MORE CAREFUL, so even she isn't my on-screen twin. (Friends have said I'm basically Chloe Sullivan from "Smallville," though. :)

      I adore the original Sherlock Holmes, but in "Sherlock," I LOVE MYCROFT. I love what they've done with him. I love his denial that he has a heart, when he so obviously does. He is a great character, and possibly the best thing in the new series from my perspective.

      To be honest -- I agree with you. I think they should have reinvented the entire movie; put more of the original fairy tale in it, where Belle has to eat dinner each night with the Beast as part of the arrangement. My mother suggested the curse should make the servants invisible; no one but the Beast can see them, but Belle can hear them, so she interacts with things she cannot see (but the audience can) until the end -- they, in their human forms (let's just get around the bad CGI). I liked this film the best when it deviated from being a direct copy; Maurice creating music boxes, them visiting Paris through a magical book, etc. That was fun. New. Give me more of that.

      What worries me about this adaptation and the gazillion dollars it just made Disney is that they'll go on to make direct copies of all their other successful animated films and I do not want that. I do not want copies. I want something NEW and ORIGINAL, a different TAKE on it, or nothing at all. I'm satisfied with the original "The Lion King"! (Can you outdo Jeremy Irons' voice? No, you can't.)

      I suspect if there hadn't been gay characters, society would have cared more about the inner-racial relationship.

      - sigh -

      I suspect in two decades, having a gay character will be no big deal either. There's already a gazillion of them on television.

    5. Charity, I am right there with you on the great things they've done with Mycroft on Sherlock. He was my favorite thing from that last episode.

      I worry the same thing about this movie. I want more original retellings, not straight-up remakes. We'll see what happens.

  2. Glad you enjoyed Luke Evans' version of Gaston more than expected. I think you liked the movie as a whole more than I did! You definitely liked the music more than me. :-D

    1. DKoren, I was listening to "Evermore" this morning and thinking that you probably hated it. I actually don't like the chorus as much as the verses, but the words -- which do nothing for you -- make it all so cool for me.

      Luke and the writers made Gaston much darker, I felt, which is why he worked better for me. Now I want to go watch "Dracula Untold" again.

    2. Hee. I didn't dislike the music during the movie, it's just not anything I hold onto afterwards or would ever want to listen to again. I realized I had talked a lot about the music and how the movie felt way too long to me in my review, but deleted all that out before I posted because it seemed harsh and the movie didn't deserve that. It's a really good movie. I think Disney princess films are just never going to be my thing.

    3. DKoren, yup, I think you're just going to have to stick with Tangles and Brave for Disney princess movies, huh?

      I will have to read your review. Soon.


    *is proud*


    To be honest, I did feel the same way about Belle in the animated movie . . . she sort of seemed a little "snobbish," in the intellectual sense? Like, the townspeople were nice to her, and she wasn't nice or friendly back? But in THIS movie I actually didn't have that problem at all; because the filmmakers really showed that she actually had a legitimate beef against the townspeople, who are actively ostracizing her and harassing her for being "too different." If I was in her shoes, I'd be singing "There must be more than this provincial life" too . . . :-)

    The real reason Belle in the animated movie has always bothered me, though, is that she's super, SUPER feminine; in the kind of way that makes you feel like you (the viewer) is being "judged" for NOT being as feminine as she is. Like, "You're a girl and you should aspire to be just like Belle b/c she's classy and charming and beautiful." Which makes me run screaming in the other direction. Can't help it.

    But Emma Watson's Belle didn't make me feel that way at all. She wasn't a "judge-y" kind of character, I mean she wasn't the kind of character that makes the audience feel judged--she was completely unique and idiosyncratic and she wasn't being held up as a model in any way, except as a model of being yourself. And I loved that.

    The Beast was so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooooo cool. I adored him. Not gonna lie.

    Yep . . . told ya Luke Evans did a fantastic job ;-) He wasn't a caricature anymore, he was REAL, and it was legitimately frightening and very well-done. Bravo, Luke.

    My favorite character was actually Lumiere :-) Followed very, very closely by Hattie Morahan as the Enchantress--she was PHENOMENAL.

    1. Jessica, yup! You called it. I did enjoy the movie.

      I'm very used to characters in movies and books being far more feminine than myself, so that didn't really bother me.

      Lumiere was excellent :-) I do love Ewan McGregor.

  4. Glad you liked it Hamlette! I enjoyed the read! Luke Evans was the best part IMO. :D Interesting thoughts on Belle, and so true! I wish they had played up her change more... I guess they do in the stage show with "A Change in Me." I liked Dan Stevens too, and his characterization, but the Beast's animation really bothered me. I think the design of his face was flawed, not so much the mo-cap. I dunno, it just never fully convinced me.

    1. Sarah, nice to know I'm not the only one thinking Luke Evans was the best part :-) Sorry you didn't like the CGI!

  5. I did really like this movie, but the main thought I went away with from it was OH MY GOSH LUKE EVANS IS AMAZING!!!!


    ~Miss Meg

  6. I'm glad you liked it! Luke Evans was excellent.

    Huh, that's interesting about why you don't identify with/love Belle... She can certainly be snobbish at times...

    Also, "campy, LGBT content played for laughs" is very accurate. Disney acted as if they were honoring the LGBT community, but it was all presented so ridiculously, I think they just offended everyone. :/

    1. Meredith, I think you're right -- they just annoyed and offended people on all sides, and for no real reason whatsoever. Lame.

  7. Evermore got me. I was crying so hard, yet it is now my favorite song of the whole thing!

    1. MC, a lot of times the songs that make me cry are going to be my favorite. That powerful emotional response means they are really good songs!


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