Beauty and the Beast (2017): A Magical, Controversial & In-Depth Review

I’ll never forget when I saw the live-action rendition of Beauty and the Beast. It was on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, with my older brother. I went in with little knowledge of the production for this film. I went into the movie undermining the whole experience. The entire film was nostalgic from the moment it began to the very ending act.

The live-action Beauty and the Beast is a unique experience because the movie added scenes from two source materials. As we’re all familiar with, the first source material is the animated film Beauty and the Beast (1991). However, the second source is less-known: Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s original Beauty and the Beast (1740, book).

It was so simply done, yet the magic of the film felt incredibly real. The musical numbers were astounding in their effect. It often left the viewer entirely in awe with the spectacularly dazzling scenes and eye-catching moments. In particular, my favorite numbers were “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston.” It was such a wind-swept journey that I can’t imagine anyone not seeing this film.

Now, to weigh in both the excellent pros and the still evident cons.

To begin, Beauty and the Beast did a fantastic job of being a contemporary piece regarding how life was like in 18th century France. 

Another clear aspect of the film they did wonderfully was that most actors and actresses (minus Belle) were theatrically inclined. Understandably so, it felt like a proper harkening back of the play version of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway (starting in 1993). 

One of the movie’s best qualities was its prominent soundtrack over the voice-overs of the actor’s singing. At times, I truly fell into the movie realm of Beauty and the Beast, forgetting momentarily that I was even watching a motion picture. Overall, the casting (for the most part) felt incredibly perfect (even if perfect doesn’t exist)!

Now to address the cons of this movie. The cons are actually few and far between, but they are there nevertheless. Like everything else in life, no work of art is ever without imperfections. This is because every single person in the world interprets the same thing in a slightly (or largely) different manner.

The first con is that Emma Watson was cast for the leading role. 

Now I know what some of you are thinking as you read this: Emma Watson has an image that can appeal to the mainstream public.  

Understandably so, Emma Watson was fantastic in the Harry Potter franchise as Hermione Granger. But we’re talking about Beauty and the Beast (2017) here.

My gripe with this line of thinking is two-fold. The first layer is that Disney didn’t feel confident enough in the source material itself. Beauty and the Beast and all of the history that goes along with it clearly wouldn’t be enough for people to see it. Let alone having the Disney logo slapped onto the film, which I think we can all agree would have brought attention to the project either way.

Don’t forget, in this day-in-age where social media exists and the spread of news by word-of-mouth moves quickly through social spheres, this movie would have been a massive success from the start.

Not to mention that this film was produced by Disney, it should be a no-brainer that this movie would have been a hit. But, instead, Disney’s only purpose for adding Emma Watson in the lead role was to break whatever record needed breaking for the box office. So in a sense, like everything else it seems in life, this was solely for money purposes. It’s a shame because creativity takes a back seat in our modern culture almost every single time.

The second “problem” is that they incorporated an LGBTQIA+ theme in this movie, where it really didn’t need to be added. 

I placed “problems” in quotes because it really isn’t an issue for me or most movie enthusiasts who watch this new iteration of Beauty and the Beast. But as a storyteller and writer myself, this presents a strange twist to the preexisting timeline of the franchise’s history.

Put another way, let’s imagine Harry Potter and Ronald Wesley. As J.K. Rowling (the author) has written the original storyline, Harry and Ron have been best friends since childhood. They have moments of laughter, hardships, tears, reuniting, and understanding. It’s a heartwarming friendship that touches on the importance of friendship and the sacrifices you sometimes have to make for your friends. 

A decade later, imagine that Harry Potter is remade by a large movie-making conglomerate studio – but this time, Harry has a secret crush on Ron. Again, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this fact or scenario. But what is a bit strange is how the original story of a tightly formed friendship has now turned into a different story. Harry Potter would now have a small sub-story line of one friend being romantically (and perhaps even sexually) in love with his best friend. Again, nothing wrong with this; the issue is that it’s taking a hard left from the source material. 

Thus, the original story is now altered dramatically. Who and what each of us loves is no joke and should not be taken lightly. As these vast movie-making conglomerates have shown us, however, is that they historically make a caricature of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

This invariably creates confusion in some audience members (usually older) who remember the story being told one way. But now, they have made a considerable change to the original storyline, so only new viewers will enjoy this new hypothetical Harry Potter movie series.

It’s a clear message from the film creators that any older viewers who enjoyed the original version(s) of Beauty and the Beast should just forget about the consistency of previous creations. Unfortunately, the creators alienated older viewers of this new Beauty and the Beast iteration to tell a new story to the younger (or first-timers) audience members of the Beauty and the Beast franchise.

After the movie was over, my brother actually made me realize (after the movie was over) the slight issue of this scene. In a way, I would have overlooked this otherwise “Hollywood-esque” move made by mainstream Hollywood. But he said in a way, it felt like Disney altered the source material just to be seen as “relevant” and “with the times.”

It was as if Disney merely added-in new material for the sake of saving facing, not for honoring the original work created by Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. 

A woman who had written this successful story (Beauty and the Beast) in her time in 18th century France, Villeneuve did the utterly and nearly impossible. Her story was quickly shared throughout the world and was critically acclaimed. In addition, her book was adapted promptly into theatrical plays. Mind you, this was during a time when women were genuinely oppressed in society. This was when women remained silent and were good wives, mothers, and community members.

In all, though, the live-action movie adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was spectacular and breathtaking in its execution. There were raw emotions stirred from within, moments of laughter, happiness, sorrow, and tears. Yet, through all of the good (and there was a lot of good) and the few bad elements to the movie – Beauty and the Beast (2017) is incredibly entertaining, downright nostalgic, and immensely bittersweet.

It was that good, to the point where I felt overwhelmed with deep emotions long forgotten.

Such magic is rare to find in movies. I’m shocked this movie came out to be as good as it did in the end. The only other thing I can say to end this review off on a good note is this: don’t allow anyone to tell you anything is impossible, for you can create stories, inventions, and history by speaking up and standing firmly for what you believe in.

 

Forever in Your Debt,

Leon R.M. Auguste

 

(Click anywhere on this sentence to view credit for the photo used in this post!)

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