The new slew of Disney live-action remakes have been the subject of mixed reviews – some love them and some hate them. There are many people that aren’t sure that they will ever match up to the original, that believe they are purely for money-making purposes and that they don’t have the same heart as the classics. But there have been some major changes that they have made to the classics that have opened up some new possibilities, have changed some of the older cliches that Disney often fell into.
Aladdin was one of the films that many were worried was going to be ruined by the new adaptation. With Robin Williams’ portrayal of the Genie being one of the most iconic performances in Disney history, fans were worried that Will Smith wouldn’t be able to match up to it and that it would be offensive to Robin Williams. Will Smith did what he could with the character, knowing that there were big shoes to fill ahead of him. While they kept the idea of the Genie very similar, he added his own unique spin onto the character. A lot of the lines that the Genie said in the original were adlibbed by Robin Williams so they took a lot of these out, even in the songs to keep Will’s performance as unique as possible. He’s naturally very funny and charismatic and brought a lot of heart to the story.
While Disney stayed as close to the story as they could, they also did add some new elements which made the story feel new yet warmly familiar at the same time. One of the recurring themes that Disney have been adding to the new films is adding a backstory to the characters that aren’t as fleshed out as some of the others – one of the main characters that got this treatment in Aladdin is Jafar. To make the film more realistic, they added some political ‘beef’ between Agrabah and Sherebad to give Jafar reason to want to become the Sultan. He can see the war building with Sherebad and how the current Sultan is doing nothing to help this. It’s an interesting take and gives Jafar more motive than simply wanting power.
One of the main aspects that is to be praised with this film is the direction that they took Jasmine’s story. She was once a very one-dimensional character who, while she showed some strength, still found that all of her problems were fixed when she met Aladdin. In the new creation, Jasmine’s purpose is to have more of a say in the running of her country – hence, her new song ‘Speechless’ where she preaches about how she won’t be silenced any longer. It’s a strong move for Disney Princesses everywhere as her main goal isn’t to be with Aladdin. In fact, she spends most of the film trying to push him away. But the ultimate fist-pump-to-the-air moment was when Jasmine finally got her wish and was given the title of Sultan.
Doing this, changing the story to give the characters more purpose has given Disney a new world for them to be able to explore without feeling limited by the story that they previously set up.