Live action films are rapidly growing popularity, with Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Cinderella (2015) Disney has now released a remake of the classic tale, Beauty and The Beast. Starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as The Beast, this is shaping up to be the biggest and most successful yet.
Beauty and The Beast has always been a tale of a girl who just didn’t fit into her poor provincial town’s old fashioned norms, where women make fools of themselves to attract men, and are saddled with house work. Emma Watson’s choice to take the role of Belle stemmed from a responsibility to portray a progressive young woman.
“I love that she is an activist within her own community. We had her teaching another young girl in the streets to read and that’s wonderful. I felt like her protector more than anything else,” she said. “It was all there to begin with, I had nothing to fix, I just had to keep her pure.”
A key moment in the film is when we see Belle invent a washing machine, made from a barrel she rigs up to a horse, to do her domestic work while she teaches a young girl how to read. The underlying message is that laundry is women’s work, which belle delegates to a horse, to make time for more important things such as shaping young female minds.
Although this is not an obvious feminist message, there’s an element of seeing beauty within, when it is not necessarily visible on the outside. The plot rather hinges on the idea that The Beast is ugly but Belle finds that on the inside he is much more; an idea which is usually implied towards womankind.
As well as a feminist message, CGI is also a large part of this film; technology which has altered our cinematic experience over the past years. It has allowed studios to make the impossible happen, including turning Dan Stevens into the Beast.
Co-producer, Steve Gaub, gave a little insight on why the choice to go CGI;
‘The Beast, being a massive furred creature with the soul of a man and legs unlike almost any beast that exists in real life, was the most challenging character to recreate overall…The Beast needed to be ferocious, but also gentle, lovable, and funny, at times. Stevens, who played the Beast, wore high-fidelity make-up on set that captured 1,000 different points on his face so the crew could work his expressions in during post-production.’
Steven’s performance of the terrifying lonely, and occasionally humorous, Beast is truly outstanding. But no Disney film would be complete without a villain, and one man who really stole the show is Welsh actor Luke Evans in his role as the charismatic, if not pretentious ex war hero, Gaston, with his all-singing, all-dancing and suavely energetic performance.
In an interview with Entertainment weekly, Evans gave insight on the psychology of Gaston and it turns out, he isn’t as put together as he appears:
“[The] best villains are not villains from the beginning. They turn into villains…He probably does suffer from PTSD, which he manages to keep under wraps because he has people like the villagers and LeFou and the girls who puff him up and make him feel sexy and wanted. But below that is a broken human being. He’s jaded, and the second he realizes that he’s not going to get what he wants, this military creature comes out of him.”
With the success of Beauty and the Beast, live action films will be going full-steam ahead in the coming years, with the reboot of Mulan, Aladdin and The Lion King to come.
Are live action films truly the way forward for Disney?
Text: Afua Aidoo