Disney’s live-action Aladdin was a music-vivid magic carpet adventure. Directed by Guy Ritchie, and released in May 24th of 2019, the film starred the American actor Will Smith as The Genie and two newcomers, Mena Massoud as the protagonist Aladdin and Naomi Scott as leading lady Princess Jasmine.
The musical-fantasy took about at least two years in the making, having been selective about the cast and visual effects which later on drew some negative criticisms. The movie started with a budget of $183 million and had grossed $1.041 billion in box office to date.
I would say the live action adaptation was a more diverse version of its 1992 animated film. Agrabah, a fictional country, was a land thick with multicultural society, all the while keeping that pungent Arabian air. This was due to their following the concept of the place being not mainly focused on having Middle Eastern origins but influenced with various races and cultures.
The movie kept most of the 2D’s storyline, which began with the thief Aladdin meeting Jasmine, the princess, in her disguise and progressed as he encountered the deceptive sorcerer, Jafar, whose far-fetched ambitions caused him to befriend Genie, a cosmically powerful being trapped inside an oil lamp with the ability to grant three wishes.
Despite the disappointed feedback from certain critics, I dare to say that the casting was no more than befitting and competent. Will Smith had executed his character with an originality of his own. Although it was too heavy a pressure to follow the steps of the last Genie, Robin Williams, the actor presented another genre to the role.
It preserved the comedy-driven attitude with a tendency for dramatics type of Genie while mixing it off with a certain flamboyant pompous swagger stemming from contemporary styles. The character could not be more personally interpreted by anyone other than Will Smith himself. He dominated the movie. The delivery of his lines were memorable and capable of capturing the audience. He was deeply invested with this new idea which he brought to the table. Mena Massoud, although a fresh addition to the mainstream media, was also to be praised. He had this process of portraying the role without any grand entrance at first but by slowly growing and completing the character.
Perhaps there wasn’t much expected impact during the initial frames of his appearance but he was able to win the favour of audiences later in the movie. He had done exceptionally satisfying as one of the leading roles. Naomi Scott introduced a princess uncommon to most of Disney’s collection. Being one of the non-white descents, she stressed on the independent nature of her character. It would suffice to say that with the simple raise of her chin, the audience could recognise the presence of a blue-blood and significantly, how highly intelligent and capable this woman is. The actress was confident as the princess in this untraditional and bold role.
For the evil Jafar, Marwan Kenzari, he placed for himself a very convincing act. He was an old- school villain, obsessed with power, and it showed through all the time he was on camera. The rest of the cast was undeserving of criticisms, with the conflict being the racial contrast of actors in comparison to the story’s. I would agree how valid a point that is, to involve a totally different set of cast appropriate for the fictional time and place. Although if I may oppose, I would say that in filmmaking, there are endless things to consider such as the availability of actors, their extent of skill for certain stunts, the chemistry they have with the movie during such brief appearances and so on, it is obvious how difficult and careful a casting would be. Conclusively, as long as the theme is retained and observed, and the actors convincing enough, and the whole of their presence being realistic and natural, I pay no unnecessary attention to origins or race.
To the music, the production did keep most songs and was able to transform them into a festive, interactive age-wise musical. With the first track, Arabian Nights performed by Smith, was a good unhurried transition as it opened the atmosphere and genre. Massoud with his One Jump Ahead, showcasing tricky stunts to avoid being caught by the city guards was an impressive action-packed piece. Scott’s new song, Speechless, although the least to gather attention was honestly intimate.
But then again, only partially highlighted the princess’ point of view. Perhaps Disney could have written a better song. The duet A Whole New World remained the ballad as it was, although at first glance may be subjected to a partial lack of romance. Two particular songs that stood out were Friend Like Me and Prince Ali by Smith as well. Arrestingly theatrical, resembling so much of how 2017’s Beauty and the Beast tracks were performed on screen. The choreographies were on point, the effects were no less than life-like. It was this type of performances which puts an audience holistically under the movie’s spell. It painted the setting so vividly. It was a jubilee of colours, a middle-east dayfair which stimulates your senses. The heat of the dessert was present, the accented tongue of the locals, even the sandy air choked with strong spices could be inhaled. It was a whole set of imagery brought to life. It was understandable that they rewrote most of the old songs in order to match the modern times and perhaps to add another flavour, but it was comforting to know they did not ruin the tracks by overdoing it.
With that said, Aladdin is a success in the hall of remakes. The elements used were persuasive and the relationships of the characters were solid. The film was a good change of environment, having had mostly Western-based movies before it. It was a platform for variety— new weather, new colours, new attitude— and how they manoeuvred these potentials had a lasting impression even after the movie ended and credits rolled. It had an effect which provoked the embracing of other cultures, of other accents, of other ways of life, and not merely the stereotypical fairytale. Hence, Aladdin represented a corner of the world, a masterpiece dyed in the colorimetry of the middle- easternsphere.
Review by Estefan Malgret.