Why I walked out of Beauty and the Beast (2017)

So here’s the thing: Beauty and the Beast (1991) is my very favorite movie. And Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the first movie I ever walked out on.

I’m not that proud of it. I wish I could have sat through the rest of it, but everything up to the point I walked out (when Belle snuck into the West Wing and subsequent conflict from that) was just Too Much, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Probably I’m just too nostalgic, or too much of a purist, or Too Much myself. But this film is trying so hard to play on viewers’ nostalgia, and to remind viewers of the 1991 original, that I can’t help but think it fell into its own trap. Every attempt to remind us of the animated film reveals what it really is: a pale, cold imitation.

But almost from the very start, the movie was distracting. The prologue’s narrator put the emphasis on the wrong words so often it threw me out of the movie. Emma Watson’s voice, autotuned or not, lacks any of the warmth of Paige O’Hara.  (And she still does that weird stuff with her eyebrows.) That’s something I could say about the “whole” film: it has no warmth, no joy. It’s trying so hard to be like the original that it doesn’t bother trying to do its own thing.

Mind you, I did like the things that were different, the brief flashes of something original: that the castle was locked in eternal winter, and the enchanted objects becoming more inanimate as the rose wilted. I like that Maurice worked in delicate clockwork rather than being a kooky inventor, and that they kept part of the original fairy tale’s reason for the Beast demanding a price from him: he stole a single rose. I thought Gaston and LeFou were quite funny.

But there was so much else wrong that I couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen from sheer embarrassment. Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson’s accents didn’t do them any favors. The costumes were trying so hard to be Realistic that they fell into this weird uncanny valley of fakeness. As much as I liked the original stuff, the movie aped the animated version so often that it distracted me. Every time they repeated a line from the original, I got jerked out of the movie, and they did it often.

In the end, I just couldn’t stand it. Maybe the second half of the movie was better. Maybe it improved. Maybe the ballroom scene had that sheer awe and love of the animated version. (I doubt it, going by the promo pics of it.) But honestly, I think the whole thing was a calculated money-grab, playing on viewers’ nostalgia to get them into theater seats.

But that’s just me, I guess.

Five Quick Movie Reviews

Before Christmas, I rented a bunch of movies. I didn’t quite manage to watch all of them, but I did watch all the ones I hadn’t seen before, so I thought I’d write some quickie reviews of them for the blog.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

A taut horror film with great sound. Three teenage thieves break into the home of a blind man who’s not as harmless as he seems. The film takes a couple unexpected turns that serve it well, though I really could have done without one element that seemed to be there for its own disturbing sake. 4/5

Mr. Holmes (2015)

An elderly Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) struggles with his failing memory as he tries to remember the details of his last case. McKellen is nothing short of amazing in the title role, and the young boy Holmes befriends is thankfully not insufferable. A great film about coming to terms with getting older. McKellen should have gotten an Oscar nod, though. 5/5

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

A young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a car accident, and wakes up in a bunker where John Goodman tells her the world has basically ended. A great thriller, Goodman and Winstead are amazing in their roles. The film isn’t obsessed with explaining everything, and ends without solving some mysteries, which suits me just fine. 5/5

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Another comedy from the Coen brothers, this film follows a day in the life of a studio supervisor (Josh Brolin) in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the events surrounding the kidnapping of the studio’s biggest start (George Clooney). It’s goofy fun, and funny as hell, with delightful performances from a whole host of stars, from Tilda Swinton to Scarlett Johansson. 4/5

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

I’d been meaning to see this one for a while. A young British man is recruited into an independent spy agency by Colin Firth, while Samuel L. Jackson plots something with the world’s rich and powerful. the action here is great, and the film manages to be both funny and serious in the right turns. Still not over the epic church fight. Or what happens to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” (I’d be cruel to spoil it). 4/5

Doctor Who S5E01: The Eleventh Hour

It’s hard to know what to write about this episode, since I really expressed all my thoughts about it a few years ago on my old blog. I love this episode for a number of reasons–for the production design, the cinematography, the clever writing, and the great new actors. It comes together to create one of the best episodes of Doctor Who, and probably one of the greatest episodes of television period. It kicks off what is in my opinion one of the best ‘eras’ of Doctor Who, a period where most of my favorite episodes live.

I love how this episode sets out to be its own thing. It isn’t defined by what came before it (thank god). It’s a soft reboot, essentially, creating its own visual language and storytelling style. We don’t, for example, get a montage showing us how Amy is Just Like You and Me–she’s different from the start. We meet her as  a child first, and when we see her again as an adult, she’s jaded, and all because of the Doctor. She doesn’t believe all the amazing things she sees, not at first.

I can’t get over how different this episode is from what came before. It doesn’t rely on silliness in the way the RTD era sometimes did. The plot is big without going too over the top, and it sets the tone and mood for everything that would follow it. There’s a sense of fairytale magic to it all, particularly the opening with little Amelia, which reads almost like the beginning of a children’s book. A lonely home life and a mysterious stranger, tied off with the promise of a grand adventure? It’s straight out of a storybook.

Of course, you can’t talk about this episode without talking about the Eleventh Doctor. After hitting a nadir of self-involved melodrama, the Doctor is a new man. While he shares some similarities with the Tenth Doctor (like relying a lot on his reputation), he’s also a refreshing departure. Though perhaps that’s a topic for a later days, since he’s more the quintessential Doctor here than thoroughly the Eleventh. Still, Matt Smith puts in a marvelous performance, silly and serious in all the right moments, and already showing his unnatural ability to look like an old man in a young man’s body.

I suppose what I love most of all about this episode is the way it makes me feel. I thought I’d lost the thread of enthusiasm when it came to Doctor Who, but all throughout my rewatch, I was almost giddy. This is the best example of everything I love about Doctor Who, particularly Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. It’s funny and smart and visually stunning. The Doctor is reassuring and kind most of all. The companions are intelligent, resourceful, and brave.

It’s good stuff, and I love it to death.

Doctor Who and the Tides of Fandom

I found Doctor Who in June of 2011. I watched the first five and a half series in about a week, and by then I was basically a fan. And now, five years later, I’ve sort of tapered off in my fandom. I wonder what happened to me.

Well, I kind of know what happened – I missed episodes, and subsequently lost interest. I was able to follow events passably well from gifsets on Tumblr, and that served as good enough. I’ve been keeping up with news on the series as a whole, but that’s about it – I’m excited about Pearl Mackie, sad about Steven Moffat’s imminent departure, and hopeful that Chris Chibnall can maybe bring his Broadchurch game to Doctor Who. I’m planning to watch this year’s Christmas special, at least (I wrote this on December 23). I want to love the show again, and be as excited about it as I was five years ago.

That’s why part of my plan for the new year is start up doing Doctor Who reviews again, this time covering Steven Moffat’s run in full. I kind of tapered off on my old blog with these; I guess my righteous fury at the end of RTD’s era only got me so far. I want to explore what made me like the series in the first place, and maybe in the process get back into loving it again.

Which sort of brings me into the secondary topic of this post – the tide of fandom. I don’t know if everyone experiences this, but I’ve found that my loves as far as fandom goes tend to change over time, sometimes even the point where I don’t like the thing I loved anymore. The Nickelodeon cartoon Danny Phantom was my first fandom, but nowadays I don’t think I could stomach the series’s silly humor, even for the parts of it I really liked. I can’t forget the show, or say that I hate it – I have two of my best friends because of it – but I don’t really consider myself a fan anymore, either.

I worry the same thing is happening to me with Doctor Who. My interest seems to have faded, and I don’t do the things I used to do with regards to the show, like writing fanfic. (Then again, that could be because my fanfic never got much attention, but that’s a rant for another time.) I still like it, there’s no question, but I want the passion and fervent fanaticism I had in the early days back again. That feeling where everything is new and exciting is rare, and I want to feel it again with this show, because it’s always changing, so it’s always new.

It’s possible my passions have moved on, of course. My favorite show right now is Steven Universe, a show on Cartoon Network that’s doing a lot of interesting and exciting stuff, and has awesome storytelling to boot. My love for it is a topic for another post, but here I wonder whether I’m always just going to have a favorite show, and that that favorite is going to change over time. I’ll always like the things I like, but I won’t like them with the same passion I had in the beginning.

And here’s where I wonder if this whole post is just a metaphor for getting older and the worries one has about not being able to do the same things or feel the same way one did when one was young. And for crissakes, I am twenty-seven, I am not ancient, I am not withering away. I will be just fine.

I’m going to start watching Doctor Who again, starting with this year’s Christmas special. I’ll watch Series 10 when it comes out, and catch up on what I missed in the meantime. Maybe the new companion will spark my interest again, or maybe I’ll just like the show in the way I like a lot of things. It doesn’t really matter, so long as I never forget what I love about it.