Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Maurice and Belle live in a small French town. He goes to sell some of his inventions and gets lost along the way, stumbling upon a dilapidated castle. Unseen people give him food and shelter until he leaves frightened at the animated teacup. He takes a rose from the garden as a present for his daughter, but the master of the castle known as the Beast, cursed for refusing to help a beggar woman, throws him in a dungeon as punishment for the theft. Belle saves Maurice by willingly taking her father's place. Maurice frantically tries to gather people to save her, but succeeds only in angering Gaston, the man dead set on marrying Belle even when they have nothing in common.

This version of the fairy tale obviously shares a lot with the cartoon version, but the magic is in the differences. The Beast's past is a little more fleshed out at the beginning. His greed, lust, selfishness, and decadence, portrayed in a lavish party with only women in attendance, show that his punishment is at least a little more reasonable. He was also an adult when this happened rather than the eleven year he was in the animated version. Belle's story is also more detailed with her talent for mechanics and her mother's tragic death due to the plague. The added plot of the town being hostile towards her when she tries to teach a girl to read or when she uses her new inventions in public also fleshed out her character and her relationship with the townspeople more than the "Bonjour" song does alone. These added details of realism for the time period make the story come to life and set it apart from the animated version. The sets and costumes are amazing and make the cartoon version look terrible in comparison. The grandeur of the castle and the quaint air of the town are better depicted and constrast well.

The other improved aspects of the film are in Gaston, LeFou, and the relationship between Belle and the Beast. Gaston is not the overexaggerated, stupid character in the cartoon. He's a war hero who is only interested in Belle because she resists him. Belle's opposition is sport for him as he doesn't view Belle as a person, but a prize to be won. Every other woman in town fawns over him, offering no challenge for him to overcome. For the first part of the movie, he seems like a decent person. Le Fou keeps his ego stroked, even stooping to bribery to get people as excited about Gaston as he is about himself as seen in . When Maurice refuses to give permission to marry Belle, it's the first time Gaston has been opposed by someone with power over him. Gaston is quick to tie him up and leave him to die, showing his cowardice and more realistic villainery. He shows the same attributes when he later turns the townspeople against Maurice to discredit him and put him away in an asylum. Le Fou has numerous doubts about Gaston's  evil actions and tries to counsel him away from them. He ends up following anyway because of his unrequited crush on Gaston.

The romance between Belle and the Beast is much improved. The Beast is less prone to screaming and bonds with Belle over saving each other and literature. Their discussions are beautiful and give him a new perspective on his surroundings. The story is inherently problematic (detailed in this article from Tor but the changes make it a little more palatable. We accept it because it's familiar and don't give much thought to the fact that Belle probably would have died if the cursed staff hadn't intervened. I enjoyed the new songs, the filled plot holes, and more realistic situations, but some things still put me off. The CGI, in particular with the Beast, looked off especially when next to real people. The extra castle staff added color, but only made the film a little more bloated time wise. Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful movie that really portrays the grandeur of the story. I honestly felt more emotion than I expected with such a familiar story. It is largely unnecessary and has some flaws, but manages to be enjoyable.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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