Saturday, March 18, 2017

I REALLY wanted to love Disney's Live Action Beauty & the Beast...

Truly I did.

But I couldn't.

Let me explain. I have adored Beauty & the Beast since I was 2 years old. Since it came out in 1991, I have been enamored with the music, animation, story & characters in that particular Disney classic.

I even have my original pillow case from the bedsheet set my mom bought me when I was 5 years old. I have watched the 1991 Beauty and the Beast probably well over a million times. So much so, that I have even the instrumental melodies and harmonies memorized, in addition to the lines of dialogue. If you say to me one phrase from the movie, I could tell you exactly what is going on in the scene, what each character was wearing at the time and what instruments are playing in the background.

Basically, I know my Beauty & the Beast stuff. I think I'm a pretty fair judge as to what is a good and what is a bad interpretation of the classic fairytale. And Disney did SUCH an amazing job on the animated version, that it was nominated for an Academy Award. Yeah, it was that good.

So when I found out that they were doing the live action version, featuring one of my favorite actresses, (Emma Watson) an actor I adore from Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) and a fabulous actor from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug & Five Armies (Luke Evans), I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. Though, I knew they would make some changes and additions to the original, I was hopeful. Emma physically & personality-wise was perfect for the role. Dan Stevens has the piercing blue eyes that the Beast has in addition to having a beautiful voice. Luke Evans has the ruggedness and gusto to bring to the role of Gaston.

I was thrilled to see it last night with my husband. And then... it started. And it didn't start the way I thought it would.

Now before I get into the things I had a problem with, I'll tell you the things that I thought they did spectacularly well. I thought Dan Stevens did a great job. I thought visually, the live action adaptation was stunning. The castle, the costumes were beautiful. I think personality wise and physically, (as I said before) Emma Watson was a perfect Belle, though she is no professional singer & there were a few moments she overacted. Those things I didn't mind, honestly.

Now here are the things I did have a problem with.

Instead of a narrator with a rich, mysterious voice speaking slowly and emphasizing words, it was someone who I felt like sped-read the whole opening and gave WAY more information than was necessary. Instead of a variation of the original's beautiful stain glass that tells us the story of how the prince was spoiled and then cursed by an enchantress, they make the opening scenes gaudy and change the prince's character to being a bit of a party animal, instead of him just being selfish and unkind. I wasn't expecting them to do the stain glass like the original, but I was hoping they'd do something like beautiful tapestries or impressionist paintings to depict the opening. You know, making it their own thing while paying homage to the original.

But no...

And then it all went downhill from there.

The dialogue was clunky, the editing atrocious and the new songs they wrote for the live-action adaptation didn't fit. I was expecting them to add in the songs from the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast like "If I Can't Love Her," and "Home." I was also expecting to have the song "Human Again," which was cut from the animated version for the sake of time & pacing.

I also felt like Luke Evans portrayal of Gaston wasn't rude enough. What I loved in the Broadway version of Beauty & the Beast is that the three babettes (the three dim-witted girls who fawn all over Gaston) are all sad that Gaston's going to marry Belle. But Gaston tells them basically, "don't worry girls. We can still have our fun together," with a little wink. WOW. He just became THAT much more of a swine. In the animated version, it seemed like he liked the attention the three girls gave him, but in the end he was obsessed with Belle. In the Broadway version, it really shows Gaston as a womanizer and a pig. I was looking forward to seeing more of that in the live action version.

Though Gaston had his awful moments, one of which punching Maurice in the face and leaving him for dead, I wanted more of his terrible-ness to be shown in front of Belle. I just felt like he should've really laid it on thick, because his behavior towards Belle just wasn't good enough for me.

Another thing that disappointed me was the subplot of "Where's Belle's mother? And how did she die?" This really served no purpose or usefulness in furthering the story at all, and was just a waste of time in the end.

In Robin McKinley's novel interpretation of Beauty and the Beast entitled, Beauty, the subplot was that Beauty hates her nickname because she doesn't think she's beautiful at all. She doesn't think she's ugly but she thinks she's plain and that nickname of 'Beauty' embarrasses her. So when she meets the Beast, there's a parallelism that happens. Beast knows he's not handsome and has no mirrors in his whole castle apart from one (which one do you think that would be?), and Beauty believes to not be a ravishing beauty. So at the end of the story when she finally sees herself in a mirror after Beast transforms, she realizes she is beautiful and sees the beauty that Beast saw in her the whole time, which Beauty learns to see the beauty in the Beast.

MUCH MUCH better subplot than "How did Belle's mother die?" You know, there's stuff that's called, "useless exposition,"  or "expository dialogue," that just bothers me. And the live action version of Beauty and the Beast was chalked full of useless expository dialogue.

For example, every body was making comments on how "why is it snowing at this Beast's castle when it's in the middle of June?" Um.. first off, in the animated version it was clearly autumn, so naturally when it transitions from leaves blowing off trees to snow on the ground at the Beast's castle, it's kind of logical that that would happen.

But let's say, for the sake of this reinterpretation that in the village where Belle and Maurice are at, it's June. Then they wind up at the Beast's castle and there's snow everywhere. Knowing that the castle and Beast are enchanted, wouldn't it make sense that the grounds of the castle would be enchanted as well? And that the evidence that they're all under a curse would be snow? You don't have to talk about "how strange it is that there's snow on the ground when it's June!" 😑😒 Um... the castle's enchanted.... duh. I don't need you to constantly remind me of that through stupid comments about the weather being different at the castle than in the village.

Now, you might say, "Why is that such a big deal?" Well, I guess it isn't. But I do take offense when directors or screenwriters think I'm stupid and can't read between the lines in the narrative. As a writer myself and a storyteller, you learn early on that your readers are smarter than you think and giving them a bunch of exposition that you can simply give subtle hints about is going to piss them off and make them feel like you don't think they're smart at all.

I could go on with other examples of things that bothered my like the transformation, that they could've REALLY gone all out for, but the camera pans away for half of it and then when the Beast is finally human, neither Belle nor he say anything.That's awkward.

You know what would've been nice? Having Belle and Beast share the same dialogue as in the original and then Belle telling him, "I don't even know your real name." and Beast replying something along the lines of, "It's been too long and I can't remember. You give me a new name." Or something like that. A little shout out to Robin McKinley's Beauty.

And then there's the enchantress that was hidden in town that randomly shows up at the end, but nobody sees or mentions the fact that "hey! That's the enchantress that cast the spell!" It's just a pointless thread in the movie that should've been cut.

And then there's the over emphasis on Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and so forth instead of on Belle and Beast's friendship and love story. I'm sure that Disney felt that since they got so many big name cast members to play these minor roles, they needed to give them more screen time. But, here's the problem with that; it takes away from the WHOLE HEART-TUGGING main plot. When Beast dies, the camera pans over to all these minor characters turning into lifeless objects... well you kind of just sucked out all the emotionally charged feelings from the air, and turned it into a melodrama. Sorry, but in the animated feature, it was perfectly acceptable that the camera shifts over to where Lumiere, Mrs. Potts & Cogsworth see the last petal fall, and they're crying. Instead, they turned it into this long, overdramatic thing where I'm not feeling any sadness or grief over the Beast dying or Belle crying over his dead body. In the original, I WEPT at that part. In this one, I was bored.

If they wanted to have Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, the Wardrobe (etc) to be in the spotlight a little more, why did they not include the song, "Human Again," that Disney cut from the original animated film?

Basically, the dialogue was stilted, the additions unnecessary, and I really felt like they could've done a better job in picking the subplot of the movie being Belle's body image issues and in the end, realizing the beauty that she always had at the same moment of Beast's transformation.

Maybe I'm suffering from the Hindsight Syndrome of "I could've done it better!" after something has already been done. But the fact is that, movies like Batman vs Superman & Captain America Civil War had massive criticisms when they were actually, very good movies. The problem is people becoming lazy and not wanting to read between the lines in the narrative. A movie isn't just about being entertaining, unless it's Fast & the Furious, I guess. But I don't consider those to be "entertaining" so much as "brain heroin."

A movie should have 3 things:
1. Make you feel uplifted--leaving you better than when you went in
2. A place you've never been before
3. A story with some substance

And the fact is that I felt like watching the Beauty and the Beast live action was like listening to a symphony by Mozart and every 5 minutes the orchestra hits the wrong note. It should be beautiful, inspiring, uplifting but they can't get the music in tune!

You're more than welcome to disagree with me. If you liked it or even loved it, that's fine. But after seeing it, I just can't get on the bandwagon. Fact is, Disney needs to STOP doing live action version of their classic movies. They have yet to do one that is satisfactory, and why would you do a remake when the originals are perfect? It makes no sense. They need to go back to doing more original stories with original music and classic hand-drawn animation. Not any of this 3D Frozen crap. That takes no talent whatsoever to do.

Feel free to leave love, or hate if that's how you roll! Maybe I'm just a picky son of a B. Or maybe I just expect better quality from a multi-billion dollar company that has access to hundreds of talented writers. I just wish this time around, I was one of them.