TL;DR
  • Looks absolutely gorgeous – CGI and cinematography as magical as the film itself
  • Amazing cast – some of the best talent we have today doing great work (some surprising even me)
  • Different to Disney’s original cartoon – not worse, not better
  • Not all new songs needed and some slightly boring – but brought something new and one is stand out

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Recently I’ve been very sceptical of Disney’s current fad of remaking their timeless classics. I understand it may largely be for monetary reasons, but it feels to me as though modern Disney assume that animated films aren’t worthy of being called ‘films’ in their own right or are not appealing and enjoyable to adults – hence these remakes. It’s almost undermining the excellent quality of their animated catalogue. Cinderella and Maleficent were sub-par and didn’t nearly reach the highs of their forebears. The Jungle Book however was the first time I saw hope; with that they brought a new light to a familiar story with incredible CGI that gave me a permanent smile throughout. So based on previous history and the casting of an actress I’d yet to be impressed with, ‘sceptical’ was a perfect adjective. ‘Apprehensive’ may even have been better as this was one of my favourites as a child (much like the original Jungle Book was too); the 1991 original also incorporating one of my favourite cinematic shots (the camera coming down from the chandelier, the dancing figures of Belle and the Beast below, swirling round as they walk outside – it’s beautiful, moving and perfectly describes the emotions of the characters at the time). What’s more, another problem of being so fond of the original is that reviewing this film is challenging- it’s difficult to judge it in its own right as it will always live in the shadow of its previous incarnation (a problem all reboots/ remakes have to face). However that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion – reviews should be honest and, in all honesty, people will always make comparisons in a situation such as this. It’s just difficult for a film such as this one to live up to the name…

The first thing to say is that the cast truly is incredible – to attract such names as Dan Stevens (making a delightful move from heartthrob Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbeyto heartthrob Disney Prince), Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, the first assumption is that there must be something particularly special. And indeed this excellent roster is not wasted – even the smaller characters of Maurice and Miss Potts have extra heart and detail added to their characters. Luke Evans’s Gaston and Josh Gad’s Le Fou being particularly noteworthy, the former progressing from pantomime villain to something much more sinister, the latter bringing a new light on the character of Le Fou, being less the idiot his name suggests and much more of the interesting comic relief. Naturally the star that attracts people most of all however is Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame. Despite being a self-professed Harry Potter maniac myself, I’ve never been a huge fan, always thinking her performances to be somewhat lackluster, feeling she could so much more. Fortunately I’m pleased to say, although not quite keeping up with the talent of the rest of the cast, she does manage to hold her own and was better than I expected. Certainly her dancing was better than the small dance scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 which I’m still cringing over… On the other hand, despite being critical and although I’m sure there were a whole host of better actresses fighting over that part, I very much approve of her casting due to what she stands for. Recently she’s been all over the media advocating her stance on feminism and I absolutely applaud her for using her fame to do something so wonderful and needed. Therefore in a film that does have a partially hidden agenda, subtly addressing LGBT and feminism, she is a perfect advocate for feminism and makes certain messages clear. Additionally to be saying this in a film also intended for children as well as adults is inspired as it teaches children lessons they should learn early on.

One aspect the film did extraordinarily well in was the cinematography and camerawork. Constantly moving, it’s a very kinetic film that can at times feel exhausting, but always looks gorgeous. The shots, CGI and costumes are all stunning and we really get a chance to look at it all and appreciate it, the combined effect completely absorbing the audience. The CGI of the titular Beast in particular was exemplary, really showing how far technology can take us in films these days. This beauty of this film is not so much Belle, but how gorgeous it all is and this is nowhere better felt than in the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number, without a doubt the highlight and, dare I say it, better than the original… A huge smile was fixed on my face for the entire song and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for a second – it was wonderful. But that’s just how it looks; how it sounds fortunately compliments it as the music too was done very well. Initially I was scared hearing reports of how Ewan McGregor apparently re-recorded this song; I was scared one of the central songs wouldn’t live up to my nostalgic childhood memory, but it did and nigh on surpassed it. I did have an issue with the inclusion of extra songs, however. All the songs from the original were included and all performed very well (Josh Gad in particular breathing new life into one of my favourite Disney songs, ‘Gaston’), yet they added more – ones we’ve never heard before and ones that were not needed. Much as I’m a big fan of musicals, for me there were too many – especially when the new songs were so short, it was almost not worth their inclusion. One exception I have to mention though is the Beast’s song after he lets Belle leave towards the end. It hit me that the Beast really doesn’t have his own song and actually how fitting it is that he is finally able to sing when he’s found love in Belle. And also, it’s actually by far the best new song added.

Personally I love moaning about new things and how we should always hold the old and original close to our hearts. However I have to reluctantly admit that this film is an exception. It’s a solid, entertaining, magical film suiting the magic of Disney and a fitting tribute to the wonders of the 1991 classic. Similar but different, there’s no denying this film is a different beast to the original (pun intended) but it’s just as lovable. Never has a lyric at the end of a film rung so true for me than in the reprise of ‘Tale as Old as Time’ – “learning you were wrong…”

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