The live-action Aladdin remake may confirm a popular fan theory about Robin Williams' Genie in the original animated movie. Directed by Guy Ritchie, 2019's Aladdin stars Mena Massoud as the diamond in the rough, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and, infamously, Will Smith as the Genie.
Smith's Genie was always one of the more intriguing elements of Aladdin 2019 from the first rumors of his casting, but things took a turn when he was finally revealed. First look images had a decidedly non-blue Smith, then the first look of him in the magical form left a lot to be desired. Later trailers have given a fairer shake, with Smith more ably evoking Williams by cracking wise and singing a fair cover of "Friend Like Me".
Over the weekend, Disney released a new Aladdin TV spot narrated by Smith that subtly added more to the mix. "It's time that I told you the story of Aladdin, the Princess, and the lamp," he introduces. This line would suggest that, in addition to playing the Genie in the story itself, Smith will be narrating Aladdin as well, at least the opening. And to long-in-the-tooth Disney fans, that can mean only one thing...
Being a childhood favorite of a generation raised on the internet, it's not surprising there's a wealth of Aladdin fan theories. Is Agrabah really in the far future, explaining the unknown geography and wealth of pop culture references? And, even more compelling, is the Merchant from the start of the movie who sets up the story of the lamp is actually the Genie? The peddler is played by Williams who riffs for a minute before introducing the story proper; the shared actor and comparable mannerisms convinced many this was the Genie breaking the fourth wall. It has since been confirmed by Aladdin's director, Ron Clements that the intention was always there but in the editing process a proper explanation was cut.
That Will Smith likewise appears to be introducing Aladdin 2019 may suggest he's playing a similar semi-dual role to Williams. As the dialogue's changed to be more grandiose, it's unclear whether he'll be actually playing something akin to the merchant or it'll just be Genie-as-narrator, but it certainly would be fitting for the remake to have a reveal similar to what was once planned for Aladdin 1992. There are few neater ways to expand Will Smith's Genie interpretation, yet still keep it firmly rooted in what Robin Williams laid down.
It makes even more sense when taking Disney's approach to their live-action remakes. The films so far have a propensity to try and add to the mythology of the originals using deleted scenes or popular ideas amongst viewers (Beauty and the Beast explained away the alleged "plot hole" of the Prince being cursed as a pre-teen). To officially canonize a fan-favorite theory is right in-line with that.
So far, Ritchie's Aladdin looks to be on the more faithful side of the Disney remake canon: the trailers focus on the detail-oriented recreation of well-remembered locations, with only hints of new actions sequences (one involving a giant Iago) and a more sympathetic Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). The true secrets of Disney's Cave of Wonders will have to wait until May.
- Aladdin (2019) release date: May 24, 2019