It's no secret that I love Disney. It's basically my whole bio on this website. My mom was pregnant with me when she took my sister to Beauty and the Beast in theaters. So you could argue that it was my first Disney movie. I grew up on it. After my first break up, Beauty and the Beast was my comfort movie. When they announced the live action version, to say I was worried was an understatement. I wanted nothing more than for this film to fail. You can't remake Beauty and the Beast. And they all the trailers flouted how similar it was to the original. I was not having it.
Then I saw the movie.
It wasn't perfect, but I smiled through the first half hour. The changes mostly enriched the plot. Maurice's song was beautiful, changing the order of plot points gave more understandable development. The lavish scenery was almost it's own character. But most importantly, the casting was perfect. Specifically Gaston. And I would like to examine some of the changes they made with that character.
When first meeting Gaston, he talks about how Belle brings him excitement. She reminds him of the adventures of the war. Belle is to Gaston as books are to Belle. And he even doesn't mind that she reads in this version.
Don't get me wrong. He's an idiot. He's french and he doesn't know what "je ne sais quoi" means. BUT he's not so dismissive of those around him. He offers Belle flowers and asks to join her for diner. He respects her for having dignity. I actually felt sad when she said no, and I knew where the movie was going!
He's clueless, not vicious. He wants to prove to Belle that he's changed enough to be with her.
The song "Gaston" has some major changes too. The scene before the song is completely different. Instead of lamenting his own embarrassment, he's lamenting his love for Belle. He's not worried about how others view him. He's worried about Belle's opinion. In both cases, Le Fou brings together the tavern to celebrate Gaston. However, in the live action movie, we see Le Fou several times putting down money. Gaston doesn't have the overwhelming popularity. While the function of the money isn't quiet clear- is it a direct payment to get the villagers to sing? Is Le Fou just paying for everyone's drinks? it's up for interpretation- but it becomes obvious that society hasn't overwhelmingly accepted him. Gaston has an ego, but it's not as bloated as in the cartoon. Even after the song is over, Gaston is willing to humor Maurice with a trip to the woods, instead of completely blowing it off.
It is in his journey with Maurice that we see the dark side of Gaston. Up to this point, he was an idiot, but he wasn't really evil. However, his willingness to kill to get what he wants reveals the darkness. It was a betrayal to the audience. He was dumb and a little self-centered, but he wasn't evil. He was even a little likable. But at this point, we've fallen in love with Belle. He's willing to kill the most important thing to her, and she had been able to sense that in him. Then, Gaston manipulates Le Fou to get the town to turn against Maurice. He relies on fear to motivate the villager to attack the beast, and then fights with a gun. The beast shows him mercy in the fight, and Gaston still shoots the beast from behind because no one else should get Belle.
These changes give Gaston more of an arch. He's more human. The message of the movie has always been beauty comes from within. This take on Gaston takes that a step further. It's the core of the person, good or bad, that matters. A person can be decent, but who they are at the core is what matters. When put to the test, the Beast is forgiving. Gaston is selfish. And that is why I love this story.
This isn't relevant to the above comments, but I thought I'd provide a Beauty and the Beast fun fact. A lot of people think that the Beast is named Prince Adam. That is in fact untrue. The name came from a book published by Hyperion that was a retelling of the story. When looking at the official D23 records, the Beast has no other name.