From the moment I heard that there was going to be a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, I knew I would love it. Beauty and the Beast was one of the Disney classics I adored when I was younger, along with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, so it was unlikely that I would be disappointed by the updated version. Sure enough, Beauty and the Beast managed to exceed my expectations.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the plot of Beauty and the Beast, but here's a quick recap: it follows a bookworm called Belle (portrayed by Emma Watson in the new film) whose father Maurice goes missing during a trip to the market. When Maurice's horse gallops back to the village looking distressed, Belle fears that something bad has happened to her father and sets out to find him. She eventually stumbles upon a mysterious castle in the middle of the woods, and discovers that Maurice is being held captive by a hideous beast. Unfortunately, the beast will only let Maurice go if Belle takes his place. Surprisingly, Belle agrees, and Maurice is able to return to the village, where he tells everyone about the beast. No one believes him so Belle continues to be trapped in the castle. After a while, Belle starts to see the good in the beast.
Apart from a few changes (for example Belle's backstory and why her mother is not around), the film stayed very close to its predecessor. Even the village was almost exactly the same as it was in the animation. I think that this was the "safe option": if Disney had changed the plot and characters dramatically, many fans would be up in arms. As it was, many people weren't happy with there being a gay scene, especially when there were so many young children in the audience. Before watching Beauty and the Beast, I was intrigued to see what the beast would be like. I was a bit wary of the CGI, but it turned out to be very effective. The beast looked so realistic and I'm sure I would have been terrified of him as a child. Although I do prefer the beast in the 1991 film, Dan Stevens's character had more of a personality, and this makes you feel sorry for him. He was cursed by an evil witch and forced to live alone, with talking objects as his only companions. The beast seemed tough on the outside, but there is a softer side to him. You can understand why Belle becomes attracted to him.
I was also impressed with the casting. Emma Watson was undeniably the perfect choice for the lead; she is very much like Belle, what with her charming personality and love for books. I couldn't have imagined anyone better to play Belle. I loved the fact that Emma refused to wear a corset (you may remember that Lily James was criticised for having a tiny waist when she played Cinderella back in 2015), and wanted Belle to be more three-dimensional and forward for her time. The supporting actors were phenomenal too - especially Emma Thompson as the jolly Mrs Potts and Josh Gad as LeFou, who added an element of comedy to the film. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) were both as amusing as ever, while Gaston (Luke Evans) was his usual narcissistic and misogynistic self, trying to win Belle's heart when she has absolutely no interest in him.
Much credit goes to Jacqueline Durran for designing such gorgeous costumes. She previously designed the outfits worn in Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, so you can see where she drew inspiration from. Belle's iconic yellow ballgown returns nearer the end of the film, and she also wears a blue outfit, which has trousers underneath to symbolise Belle's independence. The dazzling sets, which were designed by Katie Spencer, make Beauty and the Beast even more of a spectacle.
While it is difficult to watch the live-action film without comparing it to the original, Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast is still an enchanting and magical cinematic experience. The songs are delightful and it's hard not to want to sing along at times, and there are moments where you can't help but shed a tear. Beauty and the Beast is sure to remain in your heart for a long time.