Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this is not as good as the original. As a movie on its own right, it got a mixed reception. People seem to either absolutely love or absolutely hate this movie. I was fully prepared to hate it myself…but I actually kind of liked it. I thought it was quite well made.
Now, I think the thing that really divides people on this movie is the portrayal of the classic characters. Personally, I really enjoyed most of them…but had one major exception.
Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as Lefou were great. Gaston is a truly chilling antagonist, and Lefou is funny and also a lot more layered. I like how in this version Lefou obviously loves Gaston, but eventually realizes that he needs to leave him. I think he needed a better conclusion (saying sorry to Belle and actually getting to kiss a man rather than just dance with one for two seconds), but overall, I think Lefou’s character was an improvement. I found myself dancing in my seat during the “Gaston” song, and engrossed at the Mob Song.
The household objects were also surprisingly good. Some of the character designs don’t work (the wardrobe and piano just look creepy), but they did manage to come to life better than I thought they would. I really did feel for them and actually got teary-eyed over them at some points. I just wish they didn’t look so realistic.
And I got to say, the hate for Emma Watson is so overblown. Yes, I hate what she did to the iconic yellow dress and some of her attitudes toward making this film, but the whole claim on how she’s cold and emotionless in the movie is uncalled for. She does emote. She does care. And I actually did like some of the changes she made to this character. I like how she’s a bit more proactive and practical, but still maintains her love of books and her family. Honestly, I kind of saw myself in Belle a lot. I feel like, if I was in her situation, I would behave exactly like she would.
So no, Emma Watson as Belle is not the problem with the movie. No, the major problem is actually THE BEAST.
Now, Dan Stevens did a good job (with what he’s given) and I’m not expecting his new design to perfectly mimic the original. But even with the new design, it does not look right. There are a lot of scenes where he looks fake as hell. The CGI gets very conspicuous, especially when he moves. He’s not very expressive, and whenever he does get to emote, he looks very creepy. Like something’s wrong. I can safely say while I may have been harsh on the household objects before, the design of the Beast is extremely uncanny valley for me. Honestly, I would have just given him makeup and prosthetics.
But what’s even worse is that a lot of the humanity the original Beast had is gone here. In the original movie, when he acts like an asshole, we see him visibly feel sorry. We get to sympathize with him in his darkest moments; when he imprisons Belle, we see that he feels bad and lets her stay in a nicer room. When Belle rejects him at first, we get to see him upset. When he chases Belle out of his room, he looks very ashamed before going to save her. He looks overjoyed when he gets closer to Belle, and when he has to let Belle go, he’s heartbroken, but brave, choking back his tears and stroking Belle’s hair as he gives her her freedom.
In the remake, though? Nope, that’s all gone! And when he and Belle have romantic moments it feels rushed, not letting them have enough time to develop real chemistry and attraction to each other. In the original, I know that Belle fell for him because he was revealed to have a soul. In this film? He’s cold and distant, really reserved. So he did not work. But the rest of the movie did, for the most part.
I’m not sure if the other remakes are going to work (there’s a whopping 19 planned so far, who knows how many will actually see the light of day), but I’m glad that this didn’t disappoint me too badly or ruin the original for me.