The following review contains spoilers, proceed at your risk.
BEIRUT: Walt Disney Animation's Beauty and the Beast premiered in 1991 and spellbound its audience. Years later, the animation film, now dubbed "the original", still is as powerful and as relevant, which brings up the question – was there a need for a live action rendition of this tale?
The answer to that question is simple.
Walt Disney Studios, among others, has been producing films that will guarantee an audience, and nothing guarantees an audience more than a nostalgic rehash of a classic.
Yet, what Disney did with its previous releases of Cinderella in 2015, and The Jungle Book in 2016 was not a rehash but a retelling. Adding depth, and a slightly more mature take on the stories, Disney catered to Generation Z, while pleasing the generations that grew up watching "the original".
Directed by Bill Condon, Disney's Beauty and the Beast opens with the prolog, this time narrated by a woman, and as an added layer Condon grants his audience a chance to actually witness what life was like before the curse.
The film's wonder comes from the sets.
According to a behind the scenes featurette on the film's website, Condon requested to have as much built as possible all in an attempt to allow the actors to "live the moment". Seeing as to how most of the supporting characters in the film were computer generated images, one can see why the sets being real would be essential.
Staying true to the narrative's supposed time period and location, the film's production design will no doubt garner an Oscar nod next year. It is quite clear how intricate the process was in ensuring that the film does not come off as a fairy-tale alone but a fairy-tale grounded in history.
The film's visual animation was vibrant and on-point for the majority of the film. There were moments where it faltered, but overall Beauty and the Beast is visually enchanting.
The ensemble cast brought the beloved tale's characters to life in an original way without tarnishing the original film's representation.
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens's chemistry is worthy of a fairy-tale romance, but that is also due to the film's screenplay.
This time around, Belle is not as fragile as she was in the original film, holding true to her own and sparring with the Beast by using words and not actions. In a scene where Belle is caring for the Beast, the Beast wakes and finishes Belle's sentence as she reads from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The scene concludes with the Beast slightly mocking Belle's love for "melodrama and romance".
A few scenes later, Belle catches the Beast reading "Lancelot and Guinevere" in the garden, then reminds the Beast that although the tale has knights and swords it is, in fact, a romance.
The time spent building the romance between Belle and the Beast is one thing that original film fans will appreciate, while other moments that should have had more time were rushed.
Although the new narrative adds more to the mythos by showing us the Beast's childhood and the tragic fate of Belle's mother, the time it took to do so forced the screenwriters to shorten other sequences.
The most disappointing of those sequences was the film's denouement.
Alan Mehanna is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. He received his MFA in Screenwriting from Full Sail University. He is also a film instructor at the American University of Science and Technology and Antonine University.
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