As Disney remakes become more and more apparent in today's media, it is only fair that we are able to judge them and note how they change and progress with each new film. This 2019 version of "Aladdin" is no different. This movie, before even hitting the theaters, experienced its share of ups and downs. For one, "Aladdin" is an extremely beloved movie with voice acting giant Robin Williams in the role of the Genie, arguably his most famous animated voice role. The 2019 film already was fighting an uphill battle in trying to appease a mass of fans who hold Robing Williams' performance, and rightfully so, in such high and unshakable regard. Besides this, the film was facing criticisms ever since the first glimpse we got of the Genie in the trailers. For many, the animation seemed off-putting and just uncanny-valley enough to put someone out of the movie experience. With all of this mounting up before the film even begun, this new version of "Aladdin already facing fierce critiques and skepticism.
The movie came, hit the big screen, and awaited the visit of thousands of Disney fans. Now that the movie has been seen, one must wonder how the film holds up in comparison to the original film and with all of its production hang-ups. Unfortunately, for me, personally, the problems with this film still continue to shine through and overall outweigh the positive aspects of the film. For me, the problems are most evident in some of the casting/performances, it's screenwriting, and the introduction of new plot concepts.
Now, to start off with, I think this movie did a good job when it comes to representation; Aladdin isn't a movie set in your stereotypically represented American or British town and this film stands firm in choosing actors and actresses that would best give great representation to the culture and people behind the film. For this, I applaud the movie. I even think that some of the choices were well made. Jasmine gave a good performance and was an extremely likable character and even Will Smith as the Genie was a lot of fun as well.
However, that doesn't mean that all the performance choices and character choices were well thought out or planned in script. For example, Jafar, while a good actor, was not cast well for the role. He just didn't seem as intimidating or dastardly as he did in the animated film. Now, I know that it is hard to emulate animated characters at the time given the over-exaggeration of features, but I think the character of Jafar could have been directed to act a little more slimy and smooth in comparison to the film's performance. The same goes for the role of the Sultan in the film. In the animated film, we were an aspect of comic relief. He was bumbling and seemingly idiotic at times, but he genuinely cared about his daughter. The Sultan in this film seems too stretched thin between the dead-mother side problem, the war/diplomacy problems, and dealing with his daughter's marriage issue to give off that same likable persona. He feels drained of energy in this film which really damages the Sultan's relationship with his daughter and our investment in him as the main character.
Now, I personally think that it is nearly impossible to find the perfect script; there will always be some flaws or bumps in any story. However, the writing and changes found in this movie are somewhat baffling to me at times. For instance, as a screenwriter, you want to be invested in the main characters. You want to be able to understand them and be invested in their actions within the first few minutes or so. The first Aladdin film accomplishes this by showing us Aladdin's daily life and struggles while also showing us his kindness. Separately, we see Jasmine's struggled with her father and her desire for freedom. In other words, we are invested in them as characters before the actions really start to increase by having them interact in the same scene. However, this new film thrusts you immediately into the market place where Aladdin and Jasmine run from the guards: this is where "One Jump" is played instead. Personally, this doesn't work for me as well as the original because we have had little time to understand these characters, their feelings, and motivations. Instead, we are thrust right in and their interactions don't feel earned.
On a similar note, the change in Jasmine's motivation is also a puzzling beast. Now, I will say that I really do like that Jasmine in the remake also has the plot of wanting to become Sultan. This is admirable because it takes something from the original and pushes it further. However, it is something that isn't explored nearly enough to enjoy any sort of payoff. The timing just feels off and this message of feminine power feels forced rather than naturally integrated. This mainly has to do with the timing of these moments. For example, Jasmine has these big emotional songs that deal with her not being silent anymore in the face of those trying to drown out her voice. An admirable message, but these moments always happen AFTER the issue at hand. The songs are done in private or away from the current issue so they aren't tied as much to the conflict and are instead a private affair. It's moments like these that make this movie a little more difficult to watch than the first.
However, then there are moments in the new film that are added that don't make much sense at all to the overall plot. For me, this mainly comes from the addition of a new character, a handmaiden to Jasmine. While she has a fun personality and the performance is nice, I just have to state that not EVERYONE needs a love interest in a movie. We can have moments in film and characters that don't require a relationship to strengthen it. In other words, the Genie did not need a love interest. Not only does it not make much sense given the fact that the Genie in this film has trust issues and doesn't let himself get close to people, but the first film already had a strong motivation for the Genie. He was trapped and forced to do and go with his master. He desired to be free and to be free to travel. Easy and strong. I just don't like the trope that everyone gets a romantic love interest in the film and the fact one was shoe-horned in within an "Aladdin" remake drives me a little nuts.
On top of everything, the climax was a bit of a letdown. The first film had giant snake transformations, suffocating hourglasses, and Jafar summoning weapons and threats with his magic. The new film has a giant bird. The intensity and stakes are greatly lowered and as a result, so is the interest. That's not to say that the movie didn't have any redeeming qualities. The score of this film is absolutely wonderful and as I have stated before, Will Smith's performance was fun, even though it wasn't Robin Williams. I enjoyed the Genie's songs coupled with the score and visuals. Those were probably my favorite moments of the film and highly recommend one listening and watching them in some way.
Overall, this movie was not as good as its original, but it's hard to beat something that was already so good. In some way, however, I think that the remakes are heading in a somewhat positive direction and I wish the rest of them all the luck.