Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast" Returns?

Did anybody else watch the pilot of the remade BEAUTY AND THE BEAST series? While I wouldn’t dismiss a show on the basis of one episode, and I’ll certainly follow it for a while to see how it goes, so far I’m dubious. Fans of the old series will recognize the common elements: Catherine still works in law enforcement but as a police detective rather than an attorney in the D.A.’s office. Maybe they wanted to give her more opportunities for “action heroine” scenes. Years ago, a mysterious man who turns out to be Vincent rescued her from an attack in which her mother died. In the present, she runs across him again when he unsuccessfully tries to save a murder victim. Like the original Vincent, this one lives in hiding, not in a secret underground community but with a friend who’s the only person aware he’s still alive. Instead of a man born with a beast’s body, this Vincent was transformed by a military experiment that transplanted animal DNA into soldiers to enhance their physical and sensory abilities. The only survivor of the experiment, he is presumed dead. He looks human but, when enraged, takes on traits of the various animals whose DNA he carries.

In other words, the new series turns the Beast into the Hulk! The executive producer says in an interview, “We really wanted to feel this was relevant to our lives, and we thought we’d be able to make it more grounded and compelling that way. . . more realistic in a way than just a guy who looks like a lion.” (The ellipsis is in the source.)

She shows no sign (at least, in the article I read) of realizing that this change does more than tweak the concept to make the character “more realistic.” (Realistic? Animal DNA causing a reversible physical change? Really?) It transmutes the whole tone and theme of the story premise. The pilot of the Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman series was titled “Once Upon a Time in the City of New York,” emphasizing the fairy tale atmosphere that pervaded the show. Perlman’s Vincent, with his leonine shape and his “dark Vincent” half kept in check by his compassionate human side, was a mythic figure. His tunnel community came across as an idealized refuge, a realm apart that had to be protected from the harsh upper world. In fact, it could be thought of as a rationalized version of the underworld of Faerie as pictured in legends and folk ballads. The new Vincent’s secret life with his computer-genius friend has no such qualities. Here, we find ourselves in the realm of paranoia and covert government conspiracies. This Vincent doesn’t feel like a mythic Beast. He feels like yet another superhero with a tortured past.

Furthermore, so far I’m not impressed with the dialogue or the acting (and not being much of a connoisseur of stagecraft or filmcraft, I have pretty forgiving criteria for the latter). As for the concept of a human-beast hybrid created by the infusion of animal DNA, the TV series DARK ANGEL did that so effectively I think the new BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has a high standard to match in that respect, too, and, judging from the pilot, little hope of surpassing it.

Maybe I’m reacting negatively because of my love for the original BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, though. If you saw the pilot of the remake, do you think I’m giving it too little credit?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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