Aside from superhero movies, the other major trend in Hollywood right now is Disney reworking its classic animated films for a modern audience. The Jungle Book was both a critical and commercial success with its awe-inspiring effects and star-studded cast this past spring. Then in the summer, Pete’s Dragon also earned accolades aplenty and ultimately became a financial success (despite overall making far less than The Jungle Book), thanks to its relatively lean cost. The next Disney animated classic in line for the live-action treatment, Beauty and the Beast, is all the more anticipated for it.
The tone employed by the remakes released so far has varied a bit. Cinderella succeeded partly due to a fantastical and romantic direction, whereas The Jungle Book adopted more of an action/adventure feel. Beauty and the Beast‘s tone will likely have a large say in how the movie is received, but thus far it sounds as though it’s aiming for an enchanting and romantic atmosphere along the lines of its Oscar-winning 1991 predecessor.
Luke Evans, the man portraying Beauty and the Beast’s resident macho creep Gaston, suggested as much while discussing his version of the villain during an interview with CinemaBlend (as part of the larger promotional tour for The Girl on the Train), saying:
“There’s definitely a theatricality that I can bring to this role that I don’t usually get to do. There’s a slight heightened reality to the film. It’s Disney and we’re re-creating a much loved Disney story. He’s larger than life in every respect. No, it’s definitely really fun to play and I did get to do more theatricality… It’s such a great arc, such a great like arc. He starts as a kind of lovable rogue – says all these self-absorbed egocentric phrases and has his crazy sidekick. And then once he starts to realize he’s not going to get his own way, the facade starts to crack, and there’s a monster appears, and he ends up being quite the villain.”
Evan’s comments seem to suggest that director and co-writer Bill Condon plans to stay faithful to the original Disney animation, keeping the characters cartoon-ish and retaining an overall sense of bombast and fun. Anyone who has watched the animated movie will know, however, that the story does contain elements of darkness designed to scare and frighten viewers. The actor’s reference to Gaston turning into “quite the villain” hint that these crucial elements won’t be ignored. You can, however, probably expect these scary moments to be ‘Disney-dark’, rather than ‘Quentin Tarantino-dark’.
Although there is a definite glut of live-action Disney remakes at the moment, the early signs for Beauty and the Beast are positive. The cast and crew seem to be attuned to what the fans are expecting from the production. The fact that the movie seems to be using a theatrical tone will only heighten the buzz surrounding it, pleasing the majority of fans. (Those expecting to see a gritty backstory exploring Gaston’s traumatic childhood will just have to be disappointed.)
Whether the film can stand out from the crowd of other similar movies remains to be seen. With The Little Mermaid, another Jungle Book, The Lion King and many more re-tellings of Disney animated films currently in the pipeline (and with that list growing by the day), studios are running the risk of hitting saturation point.
Beauty and the Beast arrives in U.S. theaters on March 17th, 2017.