It's been 27 years since the magic that was Beauty and The Beast first graced the silver screen, and on March 17th, those lucky enough to be near theaters who showed the new film regardless of content were able to relive that magic all over again. Disney’s newest live-action release retold the classic tale in a way movie-goers couldn't have anticipated with new songs and story elements that tied the plot together in ways the original animated film was lacking. In the weeks before the movie’s release, however, there rose some controversy with one of the characters and a minor subplot that became the subject of debate and whether or not Disney should censor its content.
2017’s Beauty and The Beast featured an all-star cast from Emma Watson stepping into the role of Belle to Luke Evans offering a memorable take on the villain Gaston. Luke Evans’ Gaston is still the same self-absorbed man’s man pining after Belle for her looks only, but he’s far more clever and manipulative with his schemes. He even uses his manservant LeFou, played by Josh Gad, to keep himself in good standing with the villagers when suspicion is turned on him.
Emma Watson’s Belle is quite different from her cartoon counterpart, giving the French maiden a more independent, intuitive, and headstrong personality that makes Belle a force to be reckoned with rather than leaving her as a helpless damsel whose only real ‘oddity’ is that she likes to read. This personality is present throughout the film from interpreting what tools her father needs to finish his invention, using a donkey and a barrel to do laundry, trying to use clothes to make a rope to escape the castle, and freeing herself to go save the Beast from Gaston and the villagers.
Actor Dan Stevens played opposite of Emma Watson as Prince Adam otherwise known as The Beast, and he gave the ferocious character some depth beyond angry roaring. His shallow nature is still what cursed the castle and his servants, but it is later learned why the Beast was and is the way he is; a cruel father who turned him from an innocent and thoughtful boy into a vain and loveless man following his mother’s death. The curse on the servants was more from the fact that they did nothing to stop the father from corrupting his son.
Musician Alan Menken who worked on the original film returned with Howard Ashman to work on the soundtrack for the new film which included all the classic songs like ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘Something There That Wasn’t There Before’, and ‘Beauty and The Beast’. New songs were added alongside the story elements that told a deeper story. ‘How Does A Moment Last Forever’ is Maurice’s ode to Belle’s mother and how he still loves her even though she’s gone, ‘Days In The Sun’ expresses the servants’ desire to be human again before they become antiques forever, and The Beast gets his own solo song after he frees Belle titled ‘Evermore’ in which he details how Belle has changed his life and will love her even if she never returns.
Director Bill Condon found himself at the center of a worldwide controversy regarding the film when it came out in an interview with Attitude Magazine that the character LeFou would be gay and have his own ‘gay moment’ in the film. Bill has defended that LeFou is confused about his feelings because he is just now realizing he has them and has been quoted saying that ‘Lefou wants to be Gaston one day and wants to kiss him on another day.’ Backlash followed the interview with several theaters refusing to show it and groups threatening to boycott it. Russian officials had to review the film before they would allow it to be shown in their country because of anti-gay propaganda laws. Malaysia had similar laws but agreed to show it if they could censor the film; Disney instead pulled the film from that region.
In film, Disney’s big gay moment came down to what was roughly ten seconds of LeFou dancing with another man at the end of the film. Throughout the films, it is apparent that in his scenes that he is pining after Gaston but more subtly than the women who loudly fawn over him. Censoring would have cut out large parts of some scenes, and the story would have been marred beyond repair. A minor subplot in a movie whose central moral is character over appearance, Josh Gad did an excellent job showing the character as unsure of himself over his feelings.
The movie is not without it’s problems. The intricacy and detail that went into the designs were gorgeous no doubt, but it caused many scenes in the castle to be hopelessly cluttered, drawing unnecessary attention away from the central focus of the scene. The iconic ballroom included so many detailed columns surrounding the dance floor that it felt cramped and made it smaller than it really was. Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere was just as charming and hospitable as ever while Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth opposed nearly his every decision concerning Belle, but compared to the simpler designs of Mrs. Potts, Chip and Plumette, Lumiere and Cogsworth are over-done, a case of more is less, and nothing really explains why Lumiere and Cogsworth’s ‘disguised states’ are much simpler than when they are walking around.
Despite all this, the new Disney film has enjoyed a mountain of success. With a budget of $160 million, the film made $174 million opening weekend alone. As of March 31, the total gross has come to $393 million, proving that when the film invited fans to be their guest, they happily accepted.