This is the fourth time I watch an incarnation of Beauty and the Beast. The first one (surprisingly) was a theater play a few years ago, the second and the third was the 1991 animation, and the fourth one was the newest incarnation of Beauty and the Beast released in March of 2017. The tickets sale are already selling high anywhere. No wonder, Beauty and the Beast is a timeless classic, it deserves such acceptance by many. The higher the tree, the harder the wind blow. As popular as it is, Beauty and the Beast (2017) was rigged with a gay scene issue, there are some protest regarding to such issue, and it was banned at some places. Buttttt, (thank God) it is not banned here in Indonesia.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILER, SO, SPOILER ALERT !!
So, how good is it ? Online reviewers give it around 6-7 out of 10 scales. Well, I wouldn’t say that it is bad, but it is definitely not better than the old one. You can find some of the reasons in this list I made, it highlights both the goods and the bads of this movie.
1. It sheds light to hardcore fans
My wife is a hardcore Beauty and the Beast fan. She saw the animation incarnation of it thousand times before. First time I saw it, some questions popped up in my head such as: “where are the Beast’s parents ?”, “why does no one notice that there is this gigantic castle in a forest with a growling beast inside ?”, or “where is Belle’s mother ?”, or “why is Beast such a horrible pers… Bea… Prince ?”. All of these questions are answered in this version. I kinda have a mixed feeling here, since, it is an adaption of the 1991 Disney version, correct ? Therefore, anything that happened here might or might not canonnical to the 1991 one. It is either an entirely new universe, or it goes deeper with the 1991’s myth. I will state my opinion in point number 2
2. Some character changes are acceptable
There are some changes to the characters spawned in this version. The easiest one to be spotted would be Belle’s father, Maurice. Maurice in the cartoon is one silly and clumsy scientist who went to the city to compete in an inventor competition. In this version, Maurice is a more classy craftman who fix small appliances that works with machinery. He is also a sentimental painter. It is a complimentary traits to the history of his family, told in this version only. There are also minor changes to Cogsworth and Lumiere, in which Cogsworth have less expression and have a more inferior role to Lumiere. For me, these changes are acceptable since they really are complementing the world this version sets in.
3. Addition of new characters make the cast more colorful
There are new characters exclusive to this version, most notably Cadenza, a musician in Beast’s castle who turned into a piano, also, Madame de Garderobe’s lover. The other notable (and surprising) new character might be Agathe, a village outcast who turned out to be the Enchantress. Cadenza make the cast more colorful since he makes beautiful addition to the music, while the Enchantress is there to compliment the backstory.
4. The gender and race issue
Controversial things are good. It makes people think. Although it makes the media writes something mad, it is a bless to academics to write something about it. There are two controversial issues you can spot in this version of Beauty and the Beast. First, let’s talk about the gender issue. You can find feminism and LGBT in this movie.
The first time ever I watch an incarnation of Beauty and the Beast, the most important message I acquired is not the Stockholm Syndrome, or the Don’t Judge Books by Its Cover. The first thing I realize about the message is about Beastiali… ehm, I mean, feminism, especially about women empowerment and patriarchal society. You can see how Belle, who is a women loves to read and the close minded village people dislike her, while the musclehead Gaston is a hero to the village. This is a loud voice saying that patriarchy sucks, and it is okay for women to be smart. Gaston did state that should Belle be his wife, she should stay at home and massage his feet after hunting for food. This is a very basic stereotyped gender role in a patriarchal society: men goes out as the breadwinner, while women stay at home with the children and serve the men after he come home. In this version, the voice got even louder. One of the scene depicts how Belle create an antique laundry machine with a mule as the main engine, and she does that by teaching a girl how to read –a thing that irritates the village people, and they’re saying this is not the first time Belle does so. Again, women should not be smart according to patriarchist, they are afraid of smart women.
The second gender issue I found in this movie is of course, LGBT issue. It has been around the news that Disney will depicts a “very gay moment” in this movie, even some places have banned the movie to such issue. How was the scene ? Well, one imgurian said that “if there aren’t any balls touching, it is not gay.” The movie doesn’t show any explicit LGBT scenes, but you can see how Le Fou is gay. He is depicted as a stereotypical gay (it is not depicted negatively though). You can see how Le Fou talks gently, or how he dances in the bar, or even how he touch Gaston during the bar dancing scene. Towards the end of the movie, Le Fou change allegation after Gaston betrayed him, I can see this as how Le Fou is a more sensitive male, usually being acredited to a gay character. Oh ! One more thing, Le Fou is not the only gay character here. One of Gaston’s minion is also implicitly gay. You can see it in a scene where Madame de Garderobe dress Gaston’s minion into females during the castle attack. While changing them, Madame de Garderobe screams in a high pitching voice “BE FREE ! BE FREE !” while two other minions ran away, the gay minion smile, and you can see him happy as he being fabolous. This gay minion shares a moment with Le Fou in the final dancing scene 😉
How about the race issue ? Well, you imagine France in the 17th century, slavery was still an issue in Europe. One of the best thing about this movie is that they depict an intellectual black man (well, this his highly debatable since this is a fiction, that might not be set in the real world, but hey, the line between reality and fiction is a blurred one). Yes. Père Robert is a black man who lend his book to Belle ! In the animation version, Belle got her books from a bookseller in the village, while in this version, Belle got his book from Père Robert, probably a priest (since there is a cross depicted in the place he lend Belle books) who happily lend his book. Père Robert is also a man sympathizing to Belle when the village people despise Belle for teaching how to read to the girl I mentioned before. This might be the Disney’s way to handle racism issue, since there are some black servants in Beast’s castle.
- Emma Watson is a menacing Belle
Belle is a wonderful woman. She is smart and just like her name, beautiful. Emma Watson is also smart and beautiful. Okay, so, Emma Watson should fit the Belle’s character description, right ? Not really. Whenever I see Emma Watson, I always think that she has a somewhat menacing prescence. You know, that feeling when you see Gordon Ramsay tasting a dish in a masterchef episode, like, he is scary, but you know what he is going to see is damn right, because he is so damn good at cooking. Belle is smart and beautiful, but she is not menacing. She is an independent women who have a more joyful and playful aura. While Emma Watson is an independent women who is more in the serious, menacing side. Again, maybe Disney alter the character a little bit to fit her background story –which related to her family history.
- Some of the alteration spawns more questions
There are also some alteration that spawns more questions. One of the most notable and weird one is when Disney made the Beast more civilized –he is literate. Yes, Beast can read in this version, and he reads a lot of books. He even said that he had a good education. He can dance well. Funniest thing of it all ? He eats like a goat. You know, gobbling the plate directly. Like a beast. Funny how a well educated prince doesn’t know how to eat.
Another alteration is how the Enchantress actually gave beast more than one magic stuff. In the 1991 version, the Enchantress gave Beast a magic mirror so that he can see the outer world through the mirror, while in this version, not only a magic mirror, the Enchantress also give Beast a magic book that enable him to teleport to other places by putting his hand on the book, and think –then feel about the place. Well. Why ? Why does the Enchantress gave such gift to Beast ? Anyway, this book is a complimentary to the background story of Belle’s family.
Those are things that I can point out from the new Beauty and the Beast movie. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, thanks to the values it teaches to the viewer. I don’t know if it can easily reach anyone who watch this, but of course, it would reach the young, new viewer of this story as old as time. The main message (don’t judge a book by it’s cover) would be nicely transmitted to these younglings. If someone ask me “would you like your kids to watch this movie ?” definitely ! But please, for one time only (musical drama is not my piece of pie).