In this re-imagining of Transformers, the transformers are not aliens from another world, but a palace of civil servants sharing in a curse and defending themselves from human-kind with musical numbers and a brainwashed magical beast.
It was a risk for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to not reference Harry Potter at all, but in fact show an isolated muggle-wizard conflict in France, but truly, in this film, there is a Fantastic Beast, and they show where to find them.
Okay, I’ll try again.
In this NOT shot-for-shot remake of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson is Belle, an ‘odd girl’ from a village in France near an old castle that was cursed a few decades ago after its Prince took his selfish vanity too far to the point that a witch cursed their Kingdom into futility and are transformed into forgotten relics. When her father accidentally winds up imprisoned in the palace, Belle takes his place and her survival requires her to charm the Beast (Dan Stevens) and vice-versa, whilst the village becomes paranoid and turns to Luke Evans’ languishingly vile Gaston… But this, you know.
What you don’t know is ‘Elliot, should I go see it? Is it cinematic? Is it worthwhile? Is it different enough? Is it as good as last year’s Jungle Book?
Cinematic? Yes. Worthwhile, no. Jungle Book, definitely not.
Bill Condon isn’t just a director for hire, Chicago and Mr Holmes both proved this. Which makes it even more disappointing that the film is bland, uninspiring, and lacking in anything original.
Its not that Emma Watson isn’t delightful as Belle, and its not that the ensemble all-star cast is hard to forget, even through all the CGI. Emma Watson’s average singing ability ceases to be an issue as you find yourself debating which bits were real, were models, and which characters your supposed to care for.
Its just that nothing happens to wow us as an audience. Spectacular amounts of detail in every piece of animation are wonderful, and wonderfully executed, but, in a harsh way, its not enough any more. Not in the context of a movie that at no point has a plot twist or a moment that feels unexpected. Nothing to put you on the edge of your seat.
Its in the editing as well. Showing us that this is a clear 5 act musical, there are full on slow cuts to black. Then, in the middle of ‘Be Our Guest’, so much is happening and the shots are being intercut so quickly that I actually wished for the awful split screening from Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables to employed as a technique. The pacing is so inconsistent that you forget if a character had been given an expanded backstory in song or not. you worry about whether you missed a piece of detail because although every frame is like a painting and its too much. The film is not the sum of its parts, which bolsters designs and music being much more interesting than a dull story about stockholm syndrome that refuses to have the edge it so could have had.
I don’t remember the 1991 animated film. I think I watched it once as a child, un-wowed. So it is a real shame that with all the cast and talent off screen oozing into every moment, this couldn’t be as impressive. Maybe I misinterpreted the trailers which seemed to pitching that this would be a bit gritty, featuring the conflicts between the characters and groups more heavily? Maybe the team felt that not-doing-a-shot-for-shot remake was enough to make it feel original?
If you’re gonna do a musical, do a musical. Go for it. Take the risk. Go full Les Mis and have every single line sung, make it epic in that fashion? Why not very clearly make it two acts, have a One Day More / La Restistance (South Park: Bigger Better and Uncut) / Man Up (Book of Mormon) style compilation number and build up the conflicts and romances rather than having the villagers declare war in half a song? Would that worked? Maybe not but we’ll never know because every interesting idea for this film was either never thought of or defeated by committees.
No, just produce as many CGI objects as possible. Find a solid old Disney property to make an Emma Watson vehicle, and lower the bar with blandness and playing it safe. I don’t want to hear any more criticism of super hero movies being rekpetitive when those are the least committee driven pieces I’ve seen in recent years.
Beauty and the Beast is so very enjoyable, especially Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline and Josh Gad, and especially Dan Stevens’ ‘Now I Will’ number. But it leaves so much to be desired, and feels like a churned out boring success rather than an interesting failure. Go see it in the cinema, have fun, then forget about it a few days later, and realise that Disney is now embracing its destiny of regurgitating stories as impressively, but as uninspired as possible.