The enchanting live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1991 musical “Beauty and the Beast” has captured the hearts and minds of viewers since opening on March 17, recounting with a modern twist the beloved tale of a confident yet gentle girl who is able to find love and compassion in an angry beast.
With Emma Watson starring as Belle and Dan Stevens playing the role of the beast, the fantasy film, directed by Bill Condon, tells the story of a beautiful village girl who is dissatisfied with her provincial life in a tiny French town, using books as a way to escape to far off places. Raised by her father, she learns to see the value within people, including herself, where others might see nothing. Her confidence and self-respect are made clear when she ignores the villagers’ insults towards her, rejects the handsome yet self-enthralled Gaston and bravely takes her father’s place as prisoner in the castle of a monstrous Beast. Belle soon discovers the enchanting features of the castle, as the castle’s magical objects are under a curse that was placed on them by an enchantress due to the beast’s inability to see past material beauty. Belle, with her inextricable ability to see the value within, eventually sees the beast for who he really is and must protect him from the ignorant wrath of her village.
As critics argue over whether the new adaptation diverges too much from the animated classic or not, it provides, without a doubt, a fresh perspective on an age-old fairy tale. While the obvious difference occurs in the live-action rendering of the film, “Beauty and the Beast” is brought to life in more ways than one.
The casting displays more diversity than the 1991 animation, featuring several interracial couples and hinting at LeFou’s and another minor character’s sexuality at several points throughout the movie.
Watson’s character also takes on an enhanced role in feminist activism. “Beauty and the Beast” has long been admired for Belle’s divergence from the typical Disney princess. She is portrayed as a self-reliant, fearless girl who finds value in what she reads as opposed to what she sees, one of the reasons she is so put off by the superficial character Gaston. The new film takes this image one step further, depicting Belle as an activist. Her love for education is taken to a new level as she teaches a younger girl how to read. Although the entire village finds her actions “foolish” and “odd,” she still seeks to fill her head with knowledge and is a role-model for younger girls as she strives to share the power of learning with them as well.
While the live-action version enhanced themes such as love and humor, it also brought to light darker themes, portraying violent scenes such as wolf attacks or castle fights with more intensity. Gun shots, injuries and death are more vividly portrayed in live-action.
With a new twist also comes a newfound desperation among Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and the rest of the enchanted household objects. With each petal that drops from the enchantress’ rose, the characters become ever more inanimate. This transforms the feelings of invitation found in the animation into feelings of distress as they are just as reliant on Belle to break the curse as the Beast is.
Nevertheless, “Beauty and the Beast” was a captivating spin off of the 1991 romantic fantasy classic, full of thrilling music, talented cast members and plenty of magical moments.