Well, Disney just released their newest live-action remake of an animated classic with Beauty and the Beast this past weekend, and judging from the film's reception so far, we can probably expect a lot more remakes from them in the future. I'll admit I was hesitant to see this one at first, not because I object to remaking Beauty and the Beast, but because the previews didn't make this version seem any different from the 1991 animated film. Why pay $11 for a theater ticket when I can watch my VHS of the original for free?
But just like Belle with the castle's West Wing, curiosity got the better of me and I went to see the new film. Not only did it turn out to be an entertaining remake, but it also turned out to be a smart remake that fixes a lot of the original's problems. Fairy tales by nature are riddled with plot holes and the 1991 Beauty and the Beast, while still a great film, is riddled with them too. With that said, here are my top five examples of how the new version fills those holes with some real world logic.
5. How did Belle get the Injured Beast Back to the Castle?
After a violent encounter with the Beast about halfway through the 1991 film, Belle flees from the castle and gets attacked by wolves in the forest. The Beast fights off the pack, but gets badly injured in the process and passes out with no one but Belle to help him. She does get him back to the castle, but aside from one shot of her leading her horse through the woods with the unconscious hero slung over its back, we don't see how she manages that. How does a lone 17-year-old woman get what must be at least a 600-pound heap of dead weight onto a horse's back? It's the animated equivalent of not showing how the explorers moved unconscious King Kong from his island onto their boat; just because it's minor to the story doesn't mean we don't have questions about it.
The new Beauty and the Beast resolves this by keeping the Beast awake after fighting off the wolves. He collapses from his injuries, but he has enough strength left to help Belle get him onto the horse. Having him awake and struggling instead of unconscious also adds tension to the scene when Belle is debating whether to help him or finish her escape, since there's still a chance that he may be dangerous to her as well. All in all, this version of the scene makes some moments simpler and others more complex in a way that keeps it engaging but not as distracting.
4. What Happened to the Townspeople at the End?
This is more of a loose plot thread than a plot hole, but it's still an enormous missing piece that merits addressing. In the climax of the 1991 version, the villain Gaston leads an angry mob of townspeople to the Beast's castle where they do battle with all of the enchanted objects inside. We see a few minutes of people getting beaten up by furniture and appliances in funny, creative ways, then the people retreat and the focus settles on Gaston fighting the Beast on top of the castle. Gaston eventually falls to his death, then Belle and the Beast break the curse, everything goes back to normal, and the happy couple closes out the film by dancing together in the castle with all of the re-humanized servants gathered around them.
The only thing missing in all of this is what happened to the rest of the townspeople after they retreated. Are we meant to believe that they just went back to their normal lives after failing to kill the creature that Gaston made them so afraid of? If they were fearful enough of the Beast to invade his home in the first place, wouldn't they be fearful enough now that they might spread word of the demonic castle and come back in greater numbers? I guess it wouldn't matter since they would discover upon returning that the Beast is human again, but the film totally ignores these questions because of "Happily ever after."
The new version answers these questions by showing the townspeople come back to the castle right after the climax is over. They discover that the Beast and his servants were humans all along, and then they join the celebration at the end. The new film wraps up the storylines of hundreds of characters that the 1991 version didn't even care about, and it gets a lot of humorous and poignant moments out of them for it. What's more, it doesn't take all that much time to do any of this, which further enforces that Beauty and the Beast is about more than just a handful of core characters.
3. Why Doesn't Anyone Wonder What Happened to the Prince?
One of the more common complaints about the 1991 version is that nobody in Belle's town ever seems to wonder why they haven't seen or heard from the prince in years when his castle is so close to their homes. He's their ruling monarch, isn't he? At the very least, he's a local prominent figure whose dealings would probably be heard about in nearby settlements like theirs, so why doesn't anyone find it odd or try to investigate when he suddenly disappears from the public eye?
Again, the new version makes quick work of resolving this. A line in the opening narration explains that the enchantress who cursed the castle also erased its existence and the existence of the people inside it from the memories of everyone in the outside world, ensuring that nobody would come and try to help the prince. This is further demonstrated when the townspeople return to the castle after the curse is broken and begin recognizing the characters who had been cursed.
It's arguably the greatest overall shortcoming of the 1991 version that it doesn't treat the townspeople like they're really people. Maybe that was the idea since they're supposed to be too simple for Belle's taste and it does create an ironic contrast with the more humanized characters in the castle, but it vilifies them for basically just wanting to protect their homes and families from something beyond their understanding. They're easily misled, but in the spirit of the story, I think it was smart of the new film to link their sheeplike mentalities with the curse and show that they can change their ways once someone like Belle opens their minds.
2. Where Did All of the Cursed People Come From?
Another question that viewers often raise about the 1991 film is how there could be so many people in the castle who were turned into talking objects. Practically every single kitchen utensil, light fixture, cleaning supply, and piece of furniture in sight has the ability to move, which means that every single one had to have been a living thing originally. Were there seriously thousands of servants working in the castle when it was cursed? Were some of those objects actually birds and rodents that just happened to be on the roof or in the dungeon at the time? No explanation is ever given.
In the new movie though, we learn that the prince liked to host extravagant balls for thousands of guests and was in the middle of hosting one when the enchantress came to his door. This clears up the issue by showing that most of the enchanted objects were once visitors who normally wouldn't have been in the castle. Things like this go a long way in grounding the story in reality, which is important to do in modern adaptations of fairy tales.
Also, having so many of the curse victims not belong in the castle is likely why the screenwriters came up with the idea of erasing the outside world's memories of them. If this is the case, then this solution is especially good because it fixes two plot holes for the price of one.
1. How Long Does the Curse Last?
We all know how the prince came to be cursed in the 1991 film: an old woman came to his door seeking shelter, he turned her away because she was ugly, and she revealed herself to be the enchantress and turned him into a monster as punishment. Her terms were that if he could learn to be kind and find true love by his twenty-first birthday, the curse would be lifted. His time with Belle takes place in the days leading up to his twenty-first birthday, but one line in the song "Be Our Guest" reveals that the Beast and all of his housemates have been under their curse for ten years. Do the math, and you realize that the prince was only eleven years old when he turned away the enchantress.
Not only does this raise all sorts of questions about why a child of the royal family was allowed to answer the door alone and whether he even deserved to be punished for turning away a stranger, it also creates an inconsistency. You can't argue that the 1991 Beast started as a child and grew into an adult during his time under the curse because the portrait of his human self that he destroys shows him as an adult, not as the child that he should have been at the time when it was painted. The timeframe of the curse is often regarded as the biggest pothole in the 1991 version, and fortunately, the new version does fix it.
How do they fix it? By making the prince an adult to begin with and never actually saying how much time the characters spend under their curse. The writers even change the line in "Be Our Guest" from "Ten years we've been rusting" to "Too long we've been rusting" to keep the amount of time ambiguous. Unlike with Belle getting the injured Beast back to his castle, the remake knew that the curse's duration was an insignificant detail and eliminated that detail altogether.
It's kind of funny how easily the new Beauty and the Beast fixes these problems from the original. I don't know how the writing process for the remake went, but it almost feels like the screenwriters went online and studied every YouTube video, message board rant, and fan article about the original's plot holes beforehand and then made a point to address each one in their script. Filmgoers are a lot more keen to scrutinize movies these days, so filmmakers have to be more scrutinizing of their products while making them -- and in the case of the screenplay, they did well with this one.
But if you were wondering, the Beast still doesn't get a name in this version. That's a mystery that's going to remain as old as time.