The trailers for Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens) indicated that this would mostly be a shot-for-shot remake of the original animated Disney film, but I suspect few movie goers have a problem with that. When you combine a beloved story, excellent songs, gorgeous visuals, and the star power of Emma Watson, you are surely heading for cinematic gold. Beauty and the Beast may not surprise, but it delights–and that’s all it needs to do.
The film does flesh out a few parts of the story, adding motivations for the protectiveness of Belle’s father, showing why Belle is such an outcast in her village, and elaborating a little on the Beast’s past. Some moments in the original story that may have puzzled viewers are explained or modified. For instance, in the original it’s unclear how a bookseller says in business in a village where the only reader borrows and does not buy books. This version gives a nod to viewers’ questions by creating a more realistic scenario for Belle to borrow books.
Questions of feminism and how this version would address it and the potential of Stockholm Syndrome surrounded the film before release. Belle’s character is fleshed out more so that her strength, kindness, and fearlessness are highlighted. And there is at least one extended scene where viewers can see the Beast’s kindness and the connection he and Belle forge. Belle also directly addresses her status as a prisoner. These moments are few and short, however, so that the bulk of the story focuses on the familiar scenes, with a few dialogue changes to keep things fresh or add humor.
However, the story really does not need many changes to be strong. The makers seem to recognize that the relationships are what really drive the story. By focusing on the bonds between individuals, whether it’s a father-daughter relationship, a romance, or a friendship, the film finds its heart. Love in all its forms is supportive and powerful and transformative. The message may be as old as time, but it is a message that continues to resonate. No modifications needed.