Sat in the cinema yesterday with the honour of viewing the new Aladdin live action movie in Odeon Cinemas, I was filled with anticipation. This was one of my favourite animated films as a kid, and there was something about the mystery of Agrabah that was just so magical. Princess Jasmine was the ultimate strong willed role model as a child, and I had no idea what to expect. As a film lover, I was already aware of the reception of the film and what the reviews were saying- but as an avid Disney fan and Aladdin fan, I had to review it for myself.
The film starts on a boat that reminds me very much of the one in the beginning of Tarzan. There, Will Smith’s character (though not the genie) tells his children about the story of Aladdin and the Lamp, and he begins to sing the classic ‘Arabian Nights’. This version of the song is more mystical, and the establishing shots of the dessert and of Agrabah are absolutely breathtaking. It’s like taking a view of the Kingdom yourself, and you feel like you’re about to start a very fast paced journey. It’s a brilliant introduction that Guy Ritchie has perfectly intended. Having directed films such as ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ he understands the importance of balancing comedy, action and the overriding plot. This was portrayed throughout the whole film and became a common theme.
Mena Massoud is the essence of what Aladdin should be, cheeky, mischievous and utterly street smart. Between Aladdin and his pal Abu, we know who our heroes are, and what their intentions and dreams may be. Massoud’s portrayal of Aladdin is incredible- being of Egyptian heritage he screams Agrabah, as he parades around the market place creating havoc. That’s something to note though, the diversity in Aladdin is refreshing. Seeing actors of different heritages whether it be from India, Egypt or Persia, it shows us the intertextuality they have created with Agrabah and the market place. There is an essence of so many different countries and their influences, without being overwhelming of one whole one. It makes the setting mysterious, magical and almost rebellious.
Naomi Scott’s portrayal of Jasmine is going to change the lives of so many little girls. She is the princess we need; unable to stay silent, speaking her mind and being incredibly strong willed and determined. She is a feminist princess and her desire to be sultan breaks the glass ceiling off any Disney film. Her song ‘Speechless’ is beautiful, and so fitting in the plot, but also so fitting in society.
The score is detrimental to the story, and the Middle Eastern inspired music tells a tale that the script doesn’t show us. The plot itself is a little different to the animated version, but the changes are welcome and so necessary for 2019. It’s the perfect romance between action and musical, and the harmony in the plot compliments Ritchie as a director for being able to take something already so precious to a conglomerate, and taking it further and much bigger.
Some of the CGI is questionable in some scenes, but its technology and sometimes this doesn’t go as smoothly as needed. It doesn’t distract from what else is going on screen, and it is barely noticeable unless you are searching for it. Overall, Aladdin is one of the best films I’ve seen for a very long time, let alone the best live adaptation Disney film they have done so far. This has set massive expectations for the Lion King and everything else that is to follow.