The Beauty & the Beast Remake Is Bad and This One Scene Explains Why

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Beauty and the Beast captivated audiences of all ages in classic Disney fashion and helped solidify the studio's animation renaissance of the 90's that began with The Little Mermaid. The animated best picture nominee revitalized Disney's fairy tale tradition of telling tales as old as time with memorable songs, lovable characters, and masterful animation, becoming an instant classic.

The 2017 live-action remake, directed by Bill Condon, served as a half-hearted, beat-for-beat emulation of the original and follows in the recent studio trend of translating favorite Disney toons into big-budget live-action adaptations. While the films preceding the 2017 remake weren't direct remakes of Disney classics by being full-fledged reimaginings or spin-offs like Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Maleficent, Beauty and the Beast aimed to reiterate the same scenes and plot as the animated original with only minor changes thrown in to fill a longer runtime, setting the precedent for the regurgitative Aladdin and Mulan remakes that followed.

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Although the remake is built on virtually the same script as the original, right down to the dialogue, it fails to capture the original's masterful pacing and focus on character. The exploration of the characters' relationships and motivations are lost in live-action translation under Condon's direction, resulting in a film that is somehow more rushed, yet longer than the original. The film's mishandling of story and character is perfectly illustrated in what is intended to be a key moment in the relationship on which the entire film is built.

In the 1991 original, Belle (Paige O'Hara), just after being treated to dinner with the show-stopping "Be Our Guest", investigates the castle's forbidden west wing, where she finds the ransacked and tattered quarters of the Beast (Robbie Benson). The scene relies heavily on the Gothic foreboding atmosphere of the Beast's lair and builds tension as Belle nears the enchanted rose. When the Beast finds her, it is a moment of weighted intensity as he confronts her in an explosive outburst of rage that scares her off. After she leaves, the Beast realizes he just let his emotions get the better of him again in a moment of visible regret. This is an important humanizing beat for the Beast as it shows the gravity of his mistake and informs his decision to rescue Belle from the wolves in the scene that follows.

In the 2017 version, Belle's (Emma Watson) investigation of the Beast's (Dan Stevens) room has very little buildup against no discernable change in atmosphere. When Belle reaches the rose, the Beast quickly finds, scolds, and scares her off in a matter of seconds. The sympathetic moment of the Beast's reaction to his own rage is replaced with a distant wide-shot that doesn't communicate anything about how the Beast feels in that moment. This makes the Beast's decision to save Belle feel hollow as, by this film's understanding, he saves her for no reason.

Aside from the rushed pacing, the key difference between these scenes is the exclusion of the Beast's moment of despair having scared off his only possible chance at love. A small scene, but one that show's a pivotal look into his character that makes his call to action in the next scene believable. He felt bad about how he behaved to Belle and saved her because he cares. In the remake, there is no such sympathetic moment of realization to inform his decision to go after her or show he is self-aware and reflective of his behavior and what it might have cost him. In short, the Beast didn't save Belle because the character was motivated to do so, but because it is expected by the audience.

The exclusion and alteration of moments such as this are emblematic of the shallowness of most other Disney remakes in their approach to storytelling. Because the film knows the audience is so familiar with the stories being told, they take moments like the Beast’s grief for granted since the audience is expecting it and knows it happens, while the film itself doesn’t do the necessary storytelling to make the events feel natural to new eyes. Beauty and the Beast plays to this by relying on the audience's knowledge of the narrative to fill in the gaps of the character's motivations. We know the Beast goes to save Belle because we have seen the original, but the live-action Beast’s motivation to do so is not properly communicated. The film doesn't illustrate the emotion of the moment and instead shows the action of the scene without the subtext. Classic scenes like Mulan’s dramatic decision to join the army or Jafar’s gambles are power are shown in live-action, but don’t feel as believably told as their animated counterparts.

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About The Author
Austin Allison (26 Articles Published)

Austin Allison is an Animation Feature Writer for Collider. He is also a freelance artist, avid cartoon watcher, and occasional singer. His karaoke favorites include singing Rainbow Connection as Kermit the Frog and Frank Sinatra's My Way as Goofy. Check out his Instagram (@a_t_allison) and Twitter (@atallison_) for his latest artwork and to submit commssions.

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