I don’t think I’m in a minority when I call Beauty and Beast my favorite Disney Princess movie. If you talk to pretty much any woman in my generation you will find that we find ourselves enraptured with this story. Just for an example, my niece, who her parents often call “princess” has a room dedicated to the cartoon. When I sent her a baby doll, I chose the baby version of the princess.
We’ve all been waiting for a live-action version of this movie for a long time. I have to admit, I expected to be disappointed. I expected and was fully prepared to leave the theater in a fiery burst of anger as another childhood favorite was desecrated by some foolish attempt to make it “more relevant”. I avoid most Beauty and the Beast retellings for that very reason (that, and it usually involves a "bad boy" werewolf. Why?)
I’m not going to lie. I was not one hundred percent thrilled. There were a few things that made me pout, just a little. Most of it included subtle changes that had to be insanely difficult to translate to live action, so I will forgive them. (Beast’s transformation, for instance, which was admirably done but couldn’t match). There were also things that were beyond satisfying. Little changes with Beast’s backstory, Gaston’s actions, the minor characters, and the final battle more than made up for any doubts.
Overall, this was a remake that I know I will enjoy again. The bright, jewel colors, hints of authenticity, adherence to the theme-heavy original and the hard work of everyone involved created a movie that is as visually thrilling as it is emotionally compelling.
The most important thing to me was that the integrity of Beauty and the Beast's powerful themes was preserved. If there is one thing that other retellings missed, it was this aspect. Themes are the warm, beating heart of a living story. World building is the arms that wrap around us, characters are the eyes that we look through, but without a theme, a story is a corpse.
With many things in life, we can throw ourselves into the actions and leave out the heart. As time goes on, we become tired and drained. I know in my own personal life, taking a moment to read, taking a nap, or watch a movie makes me feel like I’m being lazy or selfish. The biggest thing that I let slip away in those moments is my motivation. I have a reason for the work that I am doing, but when I focus on getting results I often sacrifice the one thing that will allow me to be truly productive. Just like a story without a theme, work without a purpose is empty.
What about you? What story has a theme that truly inspires you?