Friday, November 22, 1991

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast was a film that I saw only a few times as a child. I enjoyed it to an extent, but was too young to appreciate the surprisingly nuanced tale.

A few months ago, I watched the final scene from B&B as a school assignment to compare the Disney film with earlier versions of the story. I was completely shocked at just how much powerful emotion was contained within the tale that I thought I knew so well. As I and the rest of my Literature classmates examined the details of the different versions of B&B, one fact became clear: this was perhaps the only example of a Disney film that far surpassed the original version of the tale, as well as nearly every other story of its kind.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast has many levels of irony and conflict that do not appear in the original story. While the characters in Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's well-known "original" version of the tale are straightforward and mostly unwavering, this film's characters are deeper and go through realistic development. Unlike The Little Mermaid, in which the primary relationship was based on a simple crush (although seemingly fated), Beauty and the Beast strives to create a real relationship that grows from mutual resentment to selfless love. There is perhaps no better example in the vast Disney Classics library of a deep, growing relationship. That's quite an impressive feat, considering that nearly all of those films are reliant upon a love story.

From a technical perspective, this film is amazing. This is the first Disney animated film to be produced entirely using CAPS, and it shows. Unlike The Little Mermaid, which was filled with film grain and other visual problems, Beauty and the Beast is visually clean and sharp, standing up even to today's visual standards. The computer-generated effects that are used in the film blend perfectly with the hand-drawn animation style, never diverting the audience's attention.

The music in B&B is among Disney's finest. Every song in the film is both enjoyable and important, revealing and reinforcing important character traits. There are even specific musical cues that, when taken in context with each other across the plot of the film, reveal hidden details of the characters' inner thoughts.

Every single aspect of Beauty and the Beast is of the highest quality. Visually, it is amazing. Musically, it is astounding. In its entirety, it is animated mastery.
Anyone and everyone should see this film at some point in their life.

Friday, June 21, 1991

The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer is adapted from the comic book of the same name, which was heavily inspired by the science fiction adventure stories of the 1930s and 40s.

The plot is simple: In 1938, an experimental rocket jet pack accidentally falls into the hands of a young stunt pilot named Cliff.  With the aid of the rocket pack, Cliff publicly saves someone's life, quickly gaining fame as the anonymous "Rocketeer." Eventually, Cliff's loved ones are threatened by Nazi agents who want the rocket's technology, and Cliff must find a way to save the ones he loves while keeping the rocket out of the hands of evil.

The film's special effects are perhaps slightly crude by today's standards, but still work to a great degree.  They're quite notable in that they replicate much of the style of early television sci-fi adventure serials, with jet flames that crackle and pop.

The film's art style is also notable in that it replicates much of the art deco style of the original comic book without feeling completely unrealistic or outlandish.  The Rocketeer's helmet is the most obviously surreal visual element of the film, but it still works within the narrative.

Above any and all visual elements, however, The Rocketeer's real strength is in its storytelling style.  The characters and plot echo the most classic of adventure films, and keep an uplifting vibe that simply feels good.

Perhaps the film's biggest flaw, however, is the fact that, while the film is certainly enjoyable, it is not amazing.  There is no truly "thrilling" quality to it, only an "adequately exciting" quality.

In the end, however, this is one of rare few films of its type, and has a level of originality despite its obvious derivative concept.