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Friday, 24 May 2019

My Thoughts: Disney's Aladdin

If you're anything like me, you're probably becoming more than a little skeptical about the sudden surge in Disney live action remakes. 

Whilst I'm slightly apposed to the regurgitation of these animated classics, I do have to admit that I loved the sets and costumes in Beauty and The Beast, Brannagh's take on Cinderella had me well and truly captivated, and whilst The Jungle Book was not my favourite movie growing up, I could still appreciate the incredibly innovative CGI technology and excellent performances featured within the 2016 remake.

With all that in mind, I really didn't know what to expect ahead of entering the cinema for the latest of Disney's live action movies, Aladdin.

'Dalia' and Aladdin meet for the first time at the Agrabah Market Place
Photo Credit: Digital Spy

First of all, Aladdin is one of my all time favourite Disney movies. Growing up in the 90s, the Renaissance Era of Disney has always been my favourite period of Disney Animation and Aladdin is very much a key part to play in that. That wonderful Alan Menken score, the exciting characters, the vibrant colours – watching the animation now as an adult, it is truly no wonder to me that this movie has been adapted in subsequent years for Broadway and London's West End as it really is a wonderfully decadent spectacle that lends itself beautifully to the medium of theatre.

It's pretty understandable that I was very nervous about the adaptation of this movie as it is so dear to my heart! And, to make the stakes even higher, Aladdin also just so happens to feature my favourite Disney character of all time too, Princess Jasmine.

I really wanted this movie to be good but my expectations were low.

Praise Allah, I had my expectations well and truly exceeded.

Princess Jasmine meets Prince Ali
Photo Source: Heroic Hollywood

We'll start with the differences between the animation and the live action. 

First of all, there aren't that many of them, which makes me really happy. Whilst the jury is still out for most people on this one, I'm definitely more on board with the remakes that stay true to the original animations such as Beauty and The Beast and The Jungle Book, in comparison to those that subvert the original stories like Alice and Wonderland and Dumbo.

I believe that everything that is changed in this film is done for a purpose, and usually, this purpose is that the change allows the movie to elevate itself by being more politically and culturally appropriate for the 21st Century. Princess Jasmine now has her own song, Speechless, in which she laments about how she will no longer be kept silent – that's powerful stuff! In addition, we also see that Jasmine not only wants the law changed with regards to who she may marry but also has her own aspirations to become Agrabah's first female Sultan! WOOHOO!

Other changes include Will Smith's contemporary, 'rapping' Genie, and *spoiler* his wish not only to be free at the end of the movie, but to be human! Both of these changes allow Smith to really modernise and refresh the role, something not easy to do after the incredible performance by the late, great Robin Williams in the original animation.

We also see a brand new character introduced in this movie, Princess Jasmine's Handmaiden Dalia, who's presence brings a humour and lightness to the movie – something much needed with the change of Iago's character from silly sidekick, to menacing accomplish. Dalia also enables the 2019 Aladdin to pass the Bechdel Test (Google it) something which the 1992 version didn't, which in itself makes this movie far superior and an improvement on the original in my mind.

Princess Jasmine in her signature green look, chatting to Dalia
Photo Credit: Bustle
The final big change that I noticed within the movie were the lyrics. With lines such as 'where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face' removed from the original Ashman version, it's needless to say that this too was an improvement on the classic!

Aladdin meets The Genie
Photo Credit: The Wrap
With regards to the settings, art direction and musical numbers, I was overjoyed with this film. Director Guy Ritchie even managed to keep his slow motion shot to a minimum – although they do make an appearance, naturally! The dance numbers were wonderfully choreographed and Mena Massoud's incredible dance ability soon became apparent!

In terms of the music, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott and Will Smith all gave wonderful vocal performances – goodbye are the days of Emma Watson's autotuned Belle! My only slight disappointment is that we will never get to hear a Lea Salonga version of 'Speechless', in the original Princess Jasmine singing voice. Well, never say never I guess!

I could go on and on about this movie, but I'll end the review hear.

If you'd like to hear more on my thoughts about this movie, be sure to check into Episode 11 of the ChatDisney podcast this Monday!

- Mercedes

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