After much anticipation, I finally saw Disney’s newest live adaptation of all our childhood fairy-tale classics, “Beauty and the Beast.” As I sat with awe-filled wonder watching my favorite characters come to life and woo me into being their guest, I often found myself reflecting on the smallest details and changes within the adaptation.
I sing praises for this film because of its portrayal of the Beast. Yes, I am thrilled about the revisions Emma Watson gave to Belle’s character, but Dan Stevens’ portrayal of the Beast solidified my love for this adaptation. While the Beast in the animated film is very much like the live action portrayal, the directors have given this Beast a more refined background. In the animated film, Belle teaches the Beast how to read; in this film, Belle and the Beast share a love for literature, one which brings them closer together. When Belle stumbles upon the Beast reading about King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, he becomes embarrassed because he is reading about the romance and love he longs to share with Belle.
After seeing the intricate details of the original film brought to life in the live adaptation, I have a new-found respect for CGI capabilities. I’ve read countless articles about the preparation Dan Stevens had to go through to bring the Beast to life. Aside from wearing stilts to film the dancing scene, Stevens also had to spend much of his filming time covered in hundreds of CGI dots. What I enjoyed most about Stevens’ portrayal is that despite being created through CGI, we can see the emotions of the Beast, establishing him as more human than animal. Every eye roll, twinge of pain or heartbreak, glimmer of hope and love is illustrated like art on a canvas, thus bringing Disney’s magic to life in a new way.
Not only did the directors do an amazing job of bringing an enchanted castle to life, Alan Menken added three new songs which further humazines the Beast. “Days in the Sun” opens with the Beast recalling losing his mother and his father leading him away. As the Beast wakes from his dream, the audience can see the pain in his eyes, and how his father had hardened him, emotionally turning him into the Beast he is physically. “Evermore” is without a doubt my favorite song throughout the whole soundtrack. This song is sung by the Beast (wow Dan Stevens!) and illustrates the love and sacrifice the Beast is willing to give to Belle so that she can be happy and free, even if it breaks his heart in return.
I understand the backlash the film is receiving about a female falling in love with a “buffalo,” but it’s easy to forget that there is a man inside of the Beast. As the Beast and Gaston share their last exchange, Gaston begs the Beast for mercy. During this exchange, we hear the Beast tell Gaston, “I am not a beast” and lets him live. It is in this moment that he reminds the audience that there is a man with a heart and a conscience inside the rough exterior. While I know how the film ends, I still cried when the Beast dies before he is turned into the prince once more. Even though Belle gets her happy ending with the prince, she too misses the Beast because it was a relationship based on intellect, compassion and what is beyond the surface.