Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Problem of the Magical Transportation Book in Beauty and the Beast

First and foremost, I actually liked the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. For the most part, the casting was right on and it really was a joy to experience this movie musical in this way. A part of me wished the movie hadn't been SO faithful to the classic animated film, but another part of me also needed to see every single thing about the animated film translated perfectly. I'm sure Disney and company struggled with this dilemma as well especially with an animated film so indelible in so many people's minds. In the end, they played it conservatively keeping a lot of the classic moments untouched while giving new touches to a few things (think the Prince's Louis XIV dance party at the beginning and the addition of the new songs).

One of the cooler new additions they made was the existence of the Magical Transportation Book that the Beast uses to transport himself away from the loneliness of his castle. In a touching scene, he shows Belle this book and in turns helps Belle go to Paris and get some closure on her mom's death. It was a kind turn from the Beast endearing himself to her while at the same time actually helping her emotionally. Also... the Magical Transportation Book is just fucking cool. Who wouldn't want one? My biggest issue is that this is the one and only time the Magical Transportation Book is used and that is an outrage.

Think about it. Here's a book that can transport you anywhere your heart desires and they don't use it ever again? Instead, oh yeah, there's the Magical Mirror that shows you whatever you want. Yes, this mirror is in the animated film, but imagine if they had just replaced the mirror with the Magical Transportation Book. It would've certainly been more cinematic. A tiny ass mirror with old-timey barely visible glass is no match to actually being transported somewhere. Remember after they danced and Belle wanted to see how Maurice was doing and the Beast showed her via the Magical Mirror that her father was in big trouble? Instead of sending off Belle to ride in the dark wearing a dress not fit for the weather AT ALL, how about using the Magical Transportation Book to teleport her directly to town? Um, oops.

Okay, okay so maybe that would've changed the plot too much. It's after all important for the Beast to actually let her go and have Belle actually ride away from him (sidenote: I love, love "Evermore" and that whole sequence).

So how about tweaking the ability of the Magical Transportation Book so that anyone who goes through it wouldn't be able to actually change anything and in fact they can't be seen or heard (actually the Enchantress gives the Magical Transportation Book to the Beast as a cruel reminder that while he's free to travel anywhere in the world, he would have to do so looking like a hideous Beast, but honestly let's hand wave that away since it wasn't really developed). That would've changed nothing of the Paris scene and the Magical Transportation Book would've been a more direct replacement to what the Magical Mirror actually did. So when Belle asks about Maurice, the Beast could've taken her to the library to the Magical Transportation Book and she (and him) could've seen the horrors up close. As I mentioned earlier, this would've been more visually interesting and the visceralness of it all would've done a lot more emotionally for Belle wanting to leave and the Beast wanting to let her go. And think about the other side of that sequence with Belle, Magical Transportation Book in tow instead of the dinky ass Magical Mirror, showing Gaston and the town folks the existence of the Beast. How intense would've that been for them, seeing the Beast in all of his glory as he broods in his dark West Wing.

In the end, what really stings for me is a truly missed moment between Belle and the Beast. Let's think about this for a second. When the Beast showed Belle his library he was nonplussed by its grandness and its contents while Belle, as we all know, thinks this is the Greatest Shit Ever. Her love of books and reading is such a core to her character. So when the Beast shows her the Magical Transportation Book for the first time, it was him reaching out to her in a way he thought she would get, by showing her the only book he truly cherishes. It's one of his greatest possessions in a castle full of priceless possessions. So now fast forward to the moment he lets her go to rescue Maurice. How much more gut-wrenchingly wonderful would it have been for him to give Belle, who I remind you loves books like she loves air, his most beloved possession in the world. And it's a damn book. I'm crying just thinking about it. UGH.

So... I praise the movie for coming up with this very nifty idea of this Magical Transportation Book. But I'm frustrated they weren't able to actually use it in a more emotionally (and cinematically) resonant way.

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