Disney has been hinting for months at what the live action Beauty and the Beast trailer was going to look like. It’s part of a mad plot to remake all the classic animated features that made the studio great as live action versions, and each time one comes along we collectively clench our jaws and say to ourselves, “Well, that’s done then, the honeymoon is over.” Then when the film comes out, it ranges from acceptable (Pete’s Dragon) to wonderful (Malificent). Here’s your first peek at Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles.
This trailer is unlike other of the Disney animation-to-live-action efforts, in that it shows a film that borrows heavily from not only the Disney feature, but from outside influences as well. Echoes of the 1946 Jean Cocteau film La Belle et la Bête ring strongly through the visuals in the trailer for the new film. The newest film’s director Bill Condon seems very consciously aware that his film will be compared to the original live action classic, and that his version will form part of a suite of films that fans will consider as single continuous expression of the beloved story.
The character designs owe much to the Cocteau film, yet they have that presence and gravitas which I can only describe as “solid air” – that sense that everything they utter is as firm and utterly bound to air around you as the earth is solid beneath your feet, that the silence between the words fills the atmosphere just as powerfully as the words they speak. Every tiny aspect of what appears in this trailer is considered, nothing is accidental. Even taking the trailer frame by frame, every scene is painterly. Everything you see is meant to be where it is, for a specific reason and design.
All the characters are there, from Belle and the Beast, to her father, to the living furniture that keep the cursed prince’s house running. And yes, Gaston is there too, and the character arcs from the animated film appear to all be in place.
A complaint often made about trailers is that they tell you the entire story of the film in the trailer, so what’s the point of seeing the film? In most cases that’s a valid observation, but in this case it’s a reassurance that they are telling us the story we want to hear. The surprises come not from the twists and turns of the story, because we already know them. The intrigue comes in the retelling of it, the reinterpretations of all the moments that make the fairy tale what it is.
Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale in the truest sense. The story has to be just so. It is a bed time story for our children, and for the child within us, and it appears that Disney has this figured out.
The tale as old as time debuts March 17, 2017.