AN: Sorry for no additional editing for this place. I'm really not feeling well emotionally after seeing the movie and after spending 4 hours writing the review, I rather not change it just because people may dislike my opinion on it.
Fair warning this is purely just my opinion and my opinion may differ from yours or anyone else and that's fine. We have different tastes and liking and that's okay as long as we can accept each others' opinion and remain civil about it.
Anyway, hope you might enjoy the review, even if it's not exactly positive as I hoped it would be.
Aladdin 2019 Review
I bet you all have at least 1 movie that affected you in one way or another either in a short or long term. For me this was the 1992 Aladdin that I first watched when I was like 11. The characters, the themes, the animation and the songs, they just left such a great impact on me that even today is really affects me.
When I first heard about the live-action remake of this movie years ago, I was both excited and sceptical. Excited to see how they will bring this to live-action and what changes they may bring, and I was sceptical because the original movie was already a classic and even if it had smaller issues, the overall movie just worked brilliantly. Either way I still promised to myself that this is going to be the movie I will watch in cinemas asap and be fair to it. Welp, I kept this promise, saw it today and now that I’m out of the cinema my heart is surely not the same as it was.
A heads up, this review is spoiler heavy. I know this is weird for many, but trust me, the things I want to talk about really lies in the details which might be minor to many, but they impact the overall story and characters heavily, despite the movie having more or less the same story-line.
Also as much as I try to be objective, I’m still a human being and might be some stuff that is purely subjective opinions.
Now that is clear, let’s start this review!
The easiest way for me to explain how the movie is without much spoiler is that they took the original movie, set some key elements in that must be in no matter what while also changing other stuff such as characters and how things happen. This results in having the same basic story-line, but the actual details are quite different from what we had for the better or worse. The most noticeable changes are with the characters and… that’s where the main issues really are.
It’s clearly noticeable they tried to tell more or less the same story with same character arcs for most, expect for Jasmine, but with how they altered the characters not only these don’t feel natural, they downright feel forced.
Aladdin for example from the guy who only steal food to survive, street smart and also has a heart of gold, but a flawed character, basically got turned into a real thief. Not once he stole actual fortune (jewellery and got tempted to take the treasure from the Cave of Wonders), he also got way dumber and just downright unlikable at one point in the movie where I couldn’t even sympathise with him despite how hard they tried to make the audience so. Remember when Aladdin got cold feet about becoming sultan despite him being just a street rat who wanted love and out of unsureness of him being able to pull this off alone was the reason he broke his promise to Genie? Welp, that’s thrown out of the window because now he breaks the promise because it’s better being a prince…. Oh and even after this scene he acts like Genie should be just his little servant because he’s the master… And then the movie has the nerve to act like Aladdin changes for the better despite giving next to no reason other than just him singing. Not only this change makes him less likeable and not a true Diamond in the rough, but this also makes him dislikeable as the movie progress.
Now I do admit though that early on he did seem to be that diamond in the rough he was in the cartoon, despite him stealing fortunes. Him trying to give back the bracelet to Jasmine, to the point to even break in was actually a nice touch, showing very well that despite being a thief, he has a good heart. That I really liked and hoped for more bits like that.
Onto Jasmine, it’s clear the people behind this movie focused on her the most. Not only she gets a very clear arc, but also makes her more like what Aladdin should be as the movie progresses. Despite me liking her and think she’s probably the better element of the movie, I can’t help but feel like they went a bit too far with her. I get that because of all the books and such she’s supposed to be the best ruler for the people of Agrabah and admittedly she does try to get to know her people (although found it funny they made her not knowing that she needs to pay when she gave 2 loaves of bread to kids from a vendor), but I feel like her ideologies and principles are never really challenged, not even by her father. To me this kinda tells me that the creators thought that Jasmine is already fine as she is and only people around are the issues as they silence her. Actually, they don’t even really silence her, only Jafar does that, while everyone else even listens to her. Heck, even when Jafar becomes Sultan, after a speech from Jasmine everyone in the palace follows her and calls her Sultana. I’m really mixed on her as part of me liked her and saw the original Jasmine in her, but I can’t help but feel like her actual arc was not executed properly and didn’t really have her grow or learn despite clearly getting from A to B. The points are there, but the journey from 1 point to another is missing despite the movie trying to tell me that there is a journey.
I do say their chemistry does work, especially in the first 30 mins. It was really nice seeing them interacting naturally, even if this time it’s Jasmine who lies about herself. Even in the second part where it’s weaker, right before AWNW scene is still very nice and would have loved more scenes like that.
Jafar is a shadow of himself to the point where I couldn’t take him seriously. His charisma and manipulating is gone and instead we get a nonstop raging kid who just wants to conquer everything because… he was a thief and was in prison for 5 years… Ehm… Just no. It’s downright unbelievable how he has become the royal advisor when Iago (who is really just a regular parrot here) is smarter than him. I guess the staff helped, but I just can’t see how he thinks he could rule anything, especially without the lamp. Sorry Jafar fans, your man is gone and we just got a generic evil guy who is evil just because people said so. No depth, no likeability, nothing. Sure they made him a bit darker (killed someone and tortured a few peeps with his magic), but without any real characteristic, it’s just hollow and there for shock value purposes.
Lastly we have Genie, a genie who has been trapped in the lamp for 1 thousand years before Aladdin releases him. Where should I even begin with him? Throw everything that you knew about Genie before this movie because this version is nothing like that. Now I did expect that because it’s Will Smith and them clearly stating they do not want to copy Robin Williams this Genie is going to be quite different, but I didn’t expect them to even change the very core of the character. Legit he’s quite selfish and mostly cares about himself and about his stuff, to the point where not only he tells Aladdin to stop bothering him as he tries to have fun in the party, but he even gets offended for Aladdin touching him. Heck even in Friend Like Me the song was more about him and how he’s the best thing ever while not even knowing Aladdin’s name (heck even said Aladdin can’t be his real master). He’s a downright jerk except on those key points where he has to help Aladdin and follow the original movie. It simply does not work and just feels the most forced friendship ever, I straight up dislike this Genie. I couldn’t care about him whether he becomes free or not because he gave no reason for me to care about him. Why should I care about a person who rather just wants to care about himself nonstop because how dare a genie not do whatever the hell he wants?! the fact that they had the dare to make a 180 degree turn and act like Aladdin and Genie are the best buddies ever despite giving us no reason for that till the drowning scene, it’s infuriating! There’s also one more element I want to talk related to this “Genie”, but later as it’s really minor, but quite angering.
I know many thinks this Genie is very good because it’s basically Will Smith therefore it’s instantly good. However for someone like me who loved the Genie that we got from the original cartoon, this is just insulting. Genie was one of the most caring, kindest soul I have ever seen both in real life and in fiction. Despite him being a slave and longing for freedom, he still does his best to help people and be kind to them either by cheering them, entertaining them with his jokes, or simply just by showing kindness and caring. He’s a selfless sad clown that would do everything for his friends, even if it means giving up his chance for freedom. He sees the good in people first and foremost and gives everyone a chance and his friendship with Al to this day still touches my heart. How in the actual earth we got from this to almost complete opposite? Even at the ending that is supposed to be happy that Genie finally gets freedom instead of crying in happiness as I would when watching the original I cried in seeing how they made Genie unlikable. Even now my heart is bleeding seeing that my very favourite Disney character turned into this.
As for the other characters, there’s really not much to talk about. Iago and the Sultan became 1 note characters and really just forgettable, while the Prince and Dalia are just there… The prince is very dumb and even the characters themselves forget about him while Dalia… I get what they were trying to go for with her. The funny best friend of Jasmine who falls in love with Genie. If it sounds like something you would see in fanfics, well, you are right. This is a straight OC story you find in Aladdin fanfics and not even a good one. the hole romance not only underdeveloped with them only having 1 scene where they even interact with each other (they don’t even know each other’s name!) but before that scene they are already all for the other. What was the point of this whole plotline other than giving a reason why Genie is a human with kids in the opening scene?! 2+ hour long movie and they couldn’t be bothered to actually give any depth to this?! Can’t believe fanfiction writers did a better job at such storyline than actual professional writers!
Lastly about the story and character parts we got some changes such as they removed the no killing rule (no idea why because they couldn’t even bothered to actually do anything with it) and they kept brought up the whole where is the kingdom of Ababwa as a running gag. I guess they tried to fill this in as this was a bit questioned in the original movie as well, but not only this was not funny, but brought up many cringy moments and made Aladdin look dumb. Oh and now they made sure people don’t think Genie owes a wish to Aladdin, as he made a contract with an unconscious Aladdin that he saves his life from drowning. Nothing too big, but it’s clear why they did that way.
Now that we are finished with the story and characters, let’s talk about the second biggest part of the movie, the music and the song. Now since I watched the movie in Hungarian, I did listen to the soundtrack in advance just to get a picture what might be different. For the most part the tracks work, Alan Menken is still good for making nice melodies with mixing old and new music in.
Songs however, now that’s a very mixed bag to say the least. Some work, some suffers from bad singing (Will Smith songs are prime example for that) and some just really a downgrade from the original ones like Prince Ali. It’s clear they tried to make them bigger with much more background music in, while also adjusting some to Will smith, but they ended up becoming way too busy and noisy to the point where it’s hard to enjoy. Even A Whole New World loses its charm a bit with those heavy drums in the background. Only songs that really worked were One Jump Ahead, Arabian Nights first half and Speechless Part 1.
Also for some reason most of the songs got some lyrics changes. They don’t exactly take out the experience, outside in Arabian Nights, but they are quite noticeable and even baffling. I read an article earlier this week where Alan Menken said he changed the lyrics to be more correct as the world has changed since. Alright, I get that, especially with Arabian Nights, but pls tell me Mr Menken what was not correct in “You are my only friend Abu” that needed to be changed to “I could use a friend or 2”? (I admit that maybe in the scene where Aladdin sang this he wasn’t in, but honestly forgot it.) Just a bit off-putting especially if you know the original songs. There was also a part, Speechless Part 2, which is very weird. Basically this songs happens after Jafar takes over and about to take Jasmine into the dungeons. The song basically stops the movie and has Jasmine walking around furiously while the people around her disappears slowly but surely. I get why was this put in, but the execution was quite confusing.
(Good news to Hungarian fans. The lyrics are mostly how they were in the original movie and thankfully sung much better. Even I ended up singing Arabian Nights, One Jump Ahead and A Whole New World while watching the movie. I know, mostly nostalgia factor I enjoyed that part, but hey, a good thing is good).
Special effects were weird. Sometimes they looked really good (Agrabah looks quite fantastic actually and a Whole New World scene worked imo) while other times it’s just downright bad (Genie in his normal form and Fiend Like Me just looks quite fake from that not so good CGI, plus Jafar in his Genie form is laughable).
The customs were a bit too Bollywood-ish, but for the world within they worked and even say some of them looked really nice.
The humour is…bad. Really bad. Genie’s jokes are unfunny and cringey, especially the interactions between him and Aladdin that supposed to be funny. Don’t even expect any clever or even adult oriented joke, because you will be disappointed. The best ones were from the parrot, who just kept saying random stuff that it just heard and that’s just embarrassing (another point for Hungarian dub though that they got the original VA of Iago for this movie. Not too big, but it was a pleasant surprise).
Honestly as much as I tried to remain fair on it and enjoyed some parts of it, especially the songs in the beginning (nostalgia was too strong), I cannot forgive what they have done to beloved characters and how the new characters and elements not only unnecessary and underused but also adding a major line for a new character, only to not even give the minimal effort into it to flesh it out makes me quite mad as someone who appreciates good writing. Sure on its own it kinda works (though if you watch with actual attention you can see the issues in it clearly) but knowing the original movie? Really hard to say where it's even close to as good as that.
You can give it a try, just not sure if you can really enjoy it or not. Sadly I didn't exactly enjoy it, despite the nostalgia kicking in for me every now and then.
Let me know what you all think about the movie!