Disney’s latest remake: A box office ‘beast’

Rachel Wright, News Editor

The “Beauty and the Beast” remake recently hit the mark for the twenty-ninth highest-grossing film of all time.

 

     Live-action remakes seem to be a trend in filmmaking over the last few years. Some have stuck close to the source material such as “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book” and “Alice in Wonderland” while others have strayed into a new story a la the “Snow White and the Huntsman” movies and “Maleficent.” The latest movie to join this group of remakes is Disney’s own “Beauty and the Beast.”

     “Beauty and the Beast,” which was released March 17, has undoubtedly been a hit with moviegoers. The film grossed a total of $430 million by its fourth week in theaters and doesn’t look to slow down any time soon. Director Bill Condon stayed fairly close to the 1991“Beauty and the Beast.” In fact, the promotional trailers mirrored the 1991 trailers to a “T” in a side-by-side comparison. Straying a bit from the original, Condon chose to make Belle the inventor instead of her father and flesh out her backstory (including what really happened to her mother). Portraying Belle as the inventor gave way to an underlying feminist theme throughout the movie and the backstory gave the character more depth.

     Another addition that caused a fair amount of controversy was the decision to make Gaston’s hype man, LeFou, a gay character. Throughout the film, there are moments that subtly elude to the character’s sexuality, which has caused some countries to completely ban  theaters from showing the film, including Malaysia.

 

     The remake features “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson in the key role as Belle, Dan Stevens as the misunderstood Beast and Luke Evans as the arrogant Gaston. The film also had Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Ewan McGregor as Lumière.

     Many were weary of the casting and were unsure whether the former wizard had the pipes for the part when she took to social media, writing, “Time to start singing lessons.” It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when fans finally got to hear snippets of Watson singing and the reactions were mixed.

     Singing aside, as that’s a personal preference, the movie proved to be a solid retelling of the story about the girl who falls in love with someone who seems unlovable. It was like watching the original for the first time and feeling that so-called “Disney Magic” again. Sure, the self-praising promotion from everyone involved in the “progressive” retelling got a little old, but it shouldn’t take away from the final product which is, at face value, an entertaining movie.

 

Emma Watson leads the “Beauty and the Beast” cast with a new spin on endearing Disney character Belle.
 

     With the box office success of “Beauty and the Beast,” Disney plans to churn out a remake of just about every single classic animated movie. Is the remake formula going to get old and overdone to the point where audiences won’t show in the massive amounts they did for “Beauty and the Beast”? It’s hard to say.

     Currently in the works are live-action remakes of “Mulan,” “The Lion King,” “Dumbo,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “Aladdin,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Peter Pan,” “Pinocchio,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “The Little Mermaid.”

     In addition to straight-up remakes, certain characters will be getting their own independent stories, including Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmatians,” Tinkerbell from “Peter Pan,” Prince Charming from “Cinderella,” Chip and Dale and the crazy, scary demon from the “Fantasia” short. Live-action sequels in the works are “Maleficent 2” and “The Jungle Book 2.”

     Some say live-action remakes are cheap and take away from the art of animation. “Animated films were animated for a reason. Animators and animation fans often point out that animated films are not a genre, but rather a medium or a format. Animation is merely way of telling a story, with its own unique quirks and advantages. One of those advantages is a degree of exaggerated expression almost entirely unavailable in live-action, where photorealism … limits possibilities,” says Corey Atad in “Esquire.”

     Deviations from these classic films and individual character studies might warrant quality and entertaining movies, but the remake phenomenon is going to die out, since people won’t be interested forever.

     These movies take years to make, so who knows how ambitious Disney Studios will get before fans lose interest and move on to the next trend?