***** SPOILER ALERT *****
This post is about the new, live action “Beauty and the Beast”. There are spoilers. I talk about major plot points and the differences between this one and the Disney original. If you want to see the movie with fresh eyes, do NOT read this blog. You are warned.
***** SPOILER ALERT ENDS *****
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I approach the new live action remakes hesitantly. “Maleficent” didn’t really impress me. “Cinderella” did. When push comes to shove, I would rather Disney make new films rather than rehashing the classics. No matter how good the film might be, at its core it will always be a remake. “Beauty and the Beast” is no exception. For me, it seemed like there was really nothing else left to do with the story. In addition to the animated feature, there is a Broadway production and a couple of other edited stage productions out there, included one at the Walt Disney World Resort. What could be left to do? Surprisingly, a lot!
The thing I noticed the most was the filling in of major plot holes from the originals. If you spend any time reading or watching fan theories on the internet you will recognize these issues. Why was the Prince was cursed when he was only 10? Why didn’t the villagers know they had a Prince in a castle living a short ride away? What happened to Belle’s mom? Did they really fall in love in one day? Why did the servants get punished too? Was Chip born a tea cup in the last 10 years and if so, where is Mr. Potts? There are more but these are the ones that get answered in the new version, mostly in the new narrative opening. One small tweak in the curse and, viola! Plot holes fixed. Interestingly, though that was not what caught my attention in the new wording of the curse.
This time through, the Prince must learn to love ‘someone’ and earn their love in return. There really isn’t a romantic component built in. He is not trapped in a castle waiting for a girl to show up, though that is what happened. He is in a castle full of people who care enough about him to stay with him even when he became the worst version of himself. He is in a castle full of people who loved him enough that they were cursed to share his fate. If he had simply opened his heart to those already around him, he could have broken the curse much sooner than he did. There something so deeply sad about a man surrounded by those who love him and who still feels unlovable.
Belle sings the question, “How in the midst of all this sorrow/ can so much hope and love endure?” I feel like this is a question that gets asked a lot and not just in movies. Stories always seem to emerge from tragedy that defy the situations that create them. Compassion during war. Hope in spite of terror. Love that grows in ruin. People showing the best of themselves in circumstances that would bring out the worst in most people. If we take the time to read about any time of violence and persecution in our history, there are stories of hope and love enduring, of people caring for each other even at the risk of their own lives. This perhaps is the real ‘tale as old as time’.
There is so much more than romance going on in the new “Beauty and the Beast” and the movie is better for it. In spite of knowing the plot ahead of time and having a strong knowledge of the characters going in, the movie made me cry. Twice! The emotional stakes are raised for all the characters and the ending is powerful. Watching the characters we know and love lose their humanity is heart breaking. It is a beautiful and well crafted piece of film that does what any good remake should do. It gives the characters depth and strengthens the story while honoring the original. It tells a story worth telling and brings us along for the journey. It gives us hope and helps us see the best in ourselves.