Note: This post contains spoilers for Disney's Beauty and the Beast
I've mentioned before that I love me some Disney princess movies. Despite the fact that in my real life, I'm pushing 30 and rather cynical about love stories, nothing gets me excited like princesses and fairy tales and singing and love-conquers-all Disney movies. And by far my favorite of those movies is Disney's 1991 Beauty and the Beast. And really, what's not to love? The animation is gorgeous. The songs are classic. The characters are awesome. The story is timeless (eff off, everyone who cries Stockholm Syndrome. That movie is so much more about the transforming power of love). The movie as a whole is tight, well-balanced, well-written, well-acted, and basically perfect (so long as you don't watch the Special Edition with "Human Again" shoehorned into the middle. Save that for the Broadway musical).
Belle is my princess, and Beauty and the Beast is my jam.
This library still makes me swoon.
That said, I felt rather ambivalent when I heard that the next of Disney's live-action remakes was going to be Beauty and the Beast. Anyone who's heard me on the topic knows at least partially what I think of Disney remakes (I may one day have to rant about the disaster that was Maleficent), and I wasn't sure I wanted the unfortunateness of those remakes touching one of my all-time favorite movies. Still, the teaser trailers were gorgeous, and I like Emma Watson, so I was excited nonetheless. I went with a couple of friends on opening weekend and ended up waiting in an actual line to get in (this in a tiny local theater where usually it's busy if more than a dozen people buy tickets for any one showing). There were lots of kids waiting in that line, and it made me realize that this might actually be some people's first time watching Beauty and the Beast. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would live up to the original.
And...well, I was right to be ambivalent.
First of all, the good things:
Again, nailed it!
Those are the good things, and I'm not going to pretend they don't exist simply for the fact that I'm writing this post mostly to rant. The movie is good. I had a great time watching it, and I think there's a lot of amazingness to it. The people who made it clearly cared about the source material, and they wanted their movie to reflect that. A lot of the changes they made were smart changes that added something new to the story.
But the 2017 remake had big shoes to fill, and I'm not quite sure it managed to fill them. Here, IMHO, is where it fell short:
Please don't eat me...
Overall, it is a good time, but you can save yourself the ticket price and watch the 1991 animated movie without missing much.
*A small rant about the LeFou-being-openly-gay thing: I don't feel like I can give Disney full credit for this one. LeFou is not openly gay. Don't misunderstand, he's gay. They don't shy away from that fact. But the openly-gay moment is so quick I actually missed it at first, and I don't think he's "more" gay than any of the other gay Disney characters, like Timone and Pumbaa, or even Lumiere and Cogsworth (which, when I first heard about the first openly gay Disney character making an appearance in this movie, I kind of thought it would be Lumiere and/or Cogsworth). That said, I think the portrayal they give to LeFou, not the least of which includes a few layers and a proper character arc, is awesome. More please!
Note: As always, I'm going to try to avoid any spoilers for the White Stone series, but something may slip out in the telling. You've been warned. :)
Last week, I wrote a post about losing control of your characters, and how the unexpected turn of the romantic subplot in Wide Horizons was the best thing that could've happened to the story. Today, I want to take that same idea of losing control of your characters and learn the exact opposite lesson.
(Yes, this may cause some advice whiplash. But let's be honest: writing is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.)
Pazur is one of the minor characters in White Stone, and originally, I had the thought he was setting up to be a potential love interest, maybe to add a third side of a love triangle to the series (this was in early 2012, somewhat before my more recent vitriolic hatred of love triangles). When presented with the idea, both he and Kalima were okay with it. But then Pazur got cocky. This was how the conversation with him went (as recalled on that day's Facebook post):
I lost that argument with Pazur, not at all unlike I had lost arguments with plenty of characters before and since. But in this case, letting Pazur do as he wished was not the right choice for the characters or the story. It led to a very out-of-place assault scene that ultimately had no bearing on any of the characters' arcs or personalities, had no tie to plot or theme, and was merely a touch of drama for the sake of a touch of drama.
(For the record, I was right. Kalima did not take kindly to Pazur's advances, and he came out of it worse than her. There was choking involved.)
And so, in revision, that was the first scene to go.
In my writing experience, a character doing something unexpected or unplanned has usually been a good thing. They prove themselves to be more real and rounded than I might've first realized, and they usually have the right solution to a problem I didn't even know the story was facing. But sometimes, a character taking charge is not a good thing. And what are you supposed to do when a character does something that derails things in all the wrong ways?
You take them by the throat and explain to them that they'd better do as they're told.
If they don't, you cut them from the story.
Cutting him completely wasn't the answer for Pazur (after all, he does still show up in the story), but in the next draft of White Stone, his scenes were greatly reduced, his relationship with Kalima slashed at the knees. I knew by then that he wasn't going to behave himself if given the liberty of making his own decisions, so I stripped him of the status of potential love interest.
Sorry, Pazur. Everyone has to obey the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Looking back on that decision, I realize that demoting Pazur from potential love interest to minor side character is what opened up the possibility of the romantic subplot that actually occurs in Wide Horizons, and you know, if you read last week's post, that was the best kind of character takeover.
So, ultimately, I guess I have to credit Pazur's off-the-rails, and ultimately cut, attempt at controlling the story for a moment where another character did take control of the story in a way that mattered to the story and character arcs.
But it did take a long time to rein him back in.
NOTE: I'm going to attempt to write this post without spoilers for Wide Horizons or anything else, but no promises that I won't slip. I get kind of excited when I talk about writing. :)
November 26, 2015. Somewhere around 4 am. It's the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, and I've been up all night getting in as many NaNoWriMo words as I can before the Thanksgiving family stuff starts later that morning. I just finished a crucial scene in Wide Horizons (2015's NaNo novel) and am attempting to rest on my laurels for a moment.
And then, things go off the rails.
It wasn't the first time I've lost control of my own fictional characters (Will from Walls did have that moment where he rode, unplanned, into the story and announced he was going to be one of the main characters, and Sam turned Nixie from what was going to be a straight-up retelling of Grimm's "The Nixie of the Mill-Pond" into a story about growing up and childhood friendships), but it was to date the most dramatic, and it sent me reeling.
I didn't set out to make Wide Horizons the story it ended up being, and the characters involved in the story's romantic subplot surprised me. But after I finished throwing my Thanksgiving day hissy fit about "Sibling" usurping the role of romantic interest, getting a good night's sleep, and thinking through the implications of this new direction, I realized that it was going to be all right.
Bill Nye said it was going to be OK, so it must be true!
More than all right, in fact: I had tripped on the perfect way to tie the story's romantic subplot into the series' overarching themes about faith and free will. This was an unexpected revelation for the entire White Stone series, and it has led me to a conclusion I probably should've had years ago.
Losing control of your characters isn't a bad thing. It can be alarming (see above Facebook post), but it can often lead to something you'd never thought about before. After you stop panicking about what the change is going to mean for everything for the rest of forever, you often find the direction the characters are trying to go really is the right one.
(Not always. Pazur from White Stone once thought it'd be a good idea to make a sexual pass at Kalima. That was not the right direction to go, now was it, Pazur?)
(I'm still a little salty about losing the argument I had with him about that scene, and I still like to remind him that I told him so every once in a while.)
So go ahead. Lose control of your characters. It might be the best thing that could happen to your story!
I love Disney princess movies. I may be pushing 30, but I refuse to make any apologies about this love. When I'm sad, I throw on Beauty and the Beast; when I'm bored at work, I play my Pandora playlist that I've trained to only Disney princess movie songs (and a few from Wicked).
I. Love. Disney. Princess. Movies.
I say this because I want it clear where I'm coming from. The first time I was able to see Frozen was one of the best times I had in the theater. But since then, Frozen has really bothered me. It is 99% awesomeness, but that last 1% in the form of that final twist, Prince Hans's 180 into last-minute villain, really can kill my joy in watching what is otherwise a genuinely good Disney princess movie.
I get what they were going for, but it never seemed to add up. Hans is not evil. It's one thing for the characters to fool each other, but it's an entirely different thing for the characters to fool the audience, even on rewatches. At no point before his villain monologue does Hans do anything that could be a clue that he's actually the bad guy, so his turn has always really, really bugged me.
And then one of my favorite YouTube channels, Film Theory, made this video:
I will never watch Hans's turn to bad guy the same way again. Thank God, Frozen can now be 100% awesomeness.
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