The new Beauty and the Beast film slayed at the weekend box office. It became the biggest March opening ever, bringing in $170 million. Kaching!
It seems that everyone loves that tale as old as time. I took my daughter to see it and we loved it, too. We’d recently watched the 1991 cartoon version, too.
While this film’s success is awesome, it’s not the first retelling to do well. People have been rebooting , retelling, or adjusting old stories for quite a while. I’ve got the Passion-Filled Fairy Tales, which add some steam and spice to the old stories. Lots of authors do these (including May Sage, Demelza Carlton and Erin Bedford, whom you may want to check out if you’re looking for a new author). So do lots of films. But how is always interesting.
Same Characters. Different Scenes. In 2009, Star Trek refreshed its classic series with what they called a “reboot.” Same characters, different actors, with a cool twist on the story (an alternate timeline that rewrites events we knew and loved from the old show). Now, some fans loved it (Me, me, me!), while others have made JJ Abrams their personal anti-Christ, saying he ruined their favorite show (my friend Mike). I’m not sure if I just don’t get Trek on the same level as Mike or if being an adapter myself, I’m more lax about change, but I enjoyed the reboot version. I think what I loved about it is it added something fresh that allowed all new adventures, while maintaining the core of the show–the characters. Fundamentally, James Tiberius Kirk, Cmdr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty were fundamentally the same. All that’s changed is their circumstances. And the new cast is absolutely endearing. So, I like this kind of retelling, generally.
Same Story, New Actors. With Cinderella and Beauty & the Beast, Disney simply decided to take a tale it had already added its own spin to in cartoon form and make it live action. Ultimately, if you enjoyed the cartoon version, you will likely enjoy the live-action, because it follows pretty much the same spirit and script. There were some minor additions, but it stayed fairly close to the originals. And this kind of retelling can be adored. Some people may ask why it needs to be retold when it’s so great as is, and to that, I say, a good story is always worth hearing again.
Character of the Same Name, but Fundamentally Different. Disney’s Maleficent was a tale of this nature. Disney attempted to look at this fairy tale character from another angle. While I’m cool with other angles, I was not a fan of Maleficent because it didn’t feel true to the original as I recalled it. While I’m totally cool with understanding why Maleficent is a villain, I didn’t like the rewrite that she wasn’t a villain, and that the king was the villain. The total juxtaposition of the fundamental nature of both characters really threw me. I know tons of people enjoyed the movie, and I’m not saying it was a bad film. However, that was one that I wasn’t fond of because I liked the original version of events better. I’m definitely not saying that these kinds of retellings don’t work. But, for me to enjoy them, they’ve got to hit perfectly. Otherwise, they just fall flat.
Interestingly, there’s another show that does a similar thing, that I’m loving. I may be loving it because I was never a big fan of the original. That one is Riverdale. I know what you’re saying: “Riverdale is a Remake?” Yeah, it actually is. It’s Archie, as in the redhead of the comic strip. I watch The Flash and the The Arrow on the CW, so I kept seeing ads for Riverdale, which appeared to be about a teenager who was killed, and the other teens in town are suspects. Seemed semi-intriguing, but I wasn’t one hundred percent sold based on the trailers. However, my daughter was like, “You want to watch this with me?” (We watched on the CW site after three episodes had aired–a mini binge). We were about 10 minutes in, when I realized the main characters were named, Archie, Betty and Veronica. I was like, is this Archie? I Googled it, and sure enough, it was. But it’s not classic 1950s, everything is awesome Archie, and my biggest problem is two girls fighting over me. It was, Archie meets Pretty Little Liars. Murder, teachers and students sleeping together, cliques, mean girls. I was like, “whaaaaaat?” I’m totally hooked and totally love it. And Luke Perry plays Archie’s dad! (I’d initially thought of saying it was like Archie meets 90210, but I think that’s just because of the Perry connection. 90210 was juicy, but not particularly dark. PLL could get pretty heady, and Riverdale seems to go that way, too).
Anyway, I am totally loving this show. But, I’ve never been a huge reader of Archie comics. Sure, they’re so part of pop culture that I’ve seen the main characters (Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead), but I had no idea what they were really like. I can’t say I’ve read more than a dozen panes over my lifetime. So, for me, I like what’s being done. However, I have no idea what a true fan of the comics would think. My impression of the characters was that they were completely wholesome, and this show is anything but wholesome, so it is at odds with my impression. However, my impression could be completely wrong. Perhaps this begs the question of who you should make reboots for: old fans or potential new ones. Though, I fall squarely in the camp of loyalty to old fans, with a bonus of drawing in new ones.
So, it looks like I’ve rambled on a tad too much. That’s it for my musings on retellings. What are your thoughts on retelllings? Do you like them close to the original? A bit of variation is cool? Or you want to see the tale flipped on its head? Any favorites? Any that just completely missed the mark with you? (I loved Jem as a kid, but heard the movie version was so completely different that I couldn’t bring myself to see it, and tarnish my happy memories).
Check out Rosetta Bloom’s fairy tale retellings here.