Disney continues to pump out new live-action remakes of their animated classics. After Dumbo, the next film to come out is Aladdin. For many, the original Aladdin is a classic. Robin William's performance as the Genie is iconic. The songs are unforgettable. It's arguably among the top Disney films ever made.
So any prospect of a remake is cause for alarm. Thankfully, there are reasons many think Guy Ritchie's new Aladdin might be worth watching. On the other hand, there are others who think it might be dead on arrival. In the interest of fairness, it's time to break down the evidence. There are many reasons Guy Ritchie's live-action Aladdin might be a diamond in the rough, but just as many why it could be street trash.
Aladdin has consistently been one of the few Disney properties to have spin-off material worth watching. The Aladdin animated series and sequels are among the few that somewhat endure the test of time. While Return of Jafar is nothing special, Aladdin and the King of Thieves deservedly has its fair share of fans.
While the live-action Aladdin isn't in the same continuity as any of those properties, it does serve as new content for a fandom that has been starved since the '90s.
Many live-action Disney films expand the plots of their respective films in order to fill the running time. It is inevitable that the new film will add material that was not present in the original film. Entire songs and characters have been added to the plot -- elements that were not needed in the original film.
While these may be creative and entertaining new elements, they may just exist as filler to complicate a plot that worked incredibly well without it.
Agrabah is one of the most well-developed worlds in Disney's body of work. The city feels alive in every frame of Aladdin, its sequels, and its television spin-off. Fans of the original will finally get to see the city recreated in live-action.
This will only help the animated city feel more vibrant and alive. It has the potential to be nothing short of sublime.
That being said, many of Disney's prior films have been less than magical. While they have their fans and make lots of money, many have left fans of the original disappointed.
Of particular note is Beauty and the Beast, which many fans felt was just a superficial retelling that muddied the original story's point while also just following the beats of the original with none of the soul. Aladdin might look beautiful, but it's possible it may come across as a soulless copy of a film we already have.
Guy Ritchie is one of the most unique directors around. His films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are noteworthy for their irreverence and style. His adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. are entertaining films -- even if their success wasn't always even.
Sure, Ritchie has had failures -- most notably his King Arthur film -- but he has entertained more often than bored. Why should his Aladdin be anything short of a good time?
This is where things get a little ugly.
Aladdin is very noticeably a film that takes place in a Middle Eastern nation. The original film doesn't have any character of European descent. However, this new film will introduce a white prince played by Billy Magnussen -- a completely new character who had no place in the original story. To make matters even more complicated, there are numerous white extras added to scenes, which, it sounds, takes away from the authenticity of this place rather than add to it. To make matters more complicated, many have accused the filmmakers of colorism by casting Naomi Scott, a half-Indian actress, to play the Arabic Princess Jasmine.
Each of these criticisms on their own are concerning, but when you take all of them into account, it leaves a bad feeling in the pit of their stomach that the filmmakers just don't really care about authentic casting.
The film will be a musical, and original songwriter Alan Menken is returning to add new songs to his original masterful soundtrack. Aladdin has one of the most beloved soundtracks in cinema history, with its countless songs becoming childhood favorites for almost every kid who grew up during the '90s.
Even if the rest of the movie is awful, at least the music will be incredible -- especially considering Will Smith's background in music. But we'll get to Will Smith later.
Jafar is one of Disney's greatest villains. A megalomaniac with grand ambitions, Jafar stood as an unforgettable bad guy with a terrific and evil laugh, as well as a serpentine design that could only be created in the medium of animation.
While the film has yet to come out, Jafar so far looks... unassuming. While the trailers show that Aladdin and Jasmine look competent enough in their roles, Jafar's look and voice feels too drastically different from the Jafar in the original film. He seems too soft-spoken, too normal looking. It's highly possible that Marwan Kenzari steals the show in the end. However, the trailers have yet to really inspire much confidence yet.
Will Smith is one of the most entertaining actors to ever live. He breathes life into films that are otherwise unimpressive. He remains one of the few bright spots in films like Suicide Squad and Bright.
While no one can out-shine the late Robin Williams, Will Smith seems to be doing his own thing as the Genie in this newest trailer, so it's highly possible that his personal charm may offer audiences some entertainment in the film.
It is undeniable that the Genie has become the main topic of conversation whenever anyone brings up this film. Mostly negative. The CGI looks off-putting. It feels very uncanny valley. A character like the Genie just lends itself so well to the world of animation that, when brought to the real-world, feels very out of place.
But to make matters worse... let's just address the elephant in the room: no one can replace Robin Williams. While Dan Castellaneta and Jim Meskimen have done admirable jobs trying to take on the role, Robin Williams cannot be replaced. The CGI and out-of-placeness of the character might be tolerable if it was Robin Williams's voice coming out of that iconic character's lips. But it just isn't.
Will Smith might be entertaining in the film -- may be the highlight of the film. But he won't be playing the Genie. The Genie has died, and nothing Disney does can ever bring him back.