Live Action Aladdin: How Good is it Really?

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On Nov. 11, 1992, the animated moving picture Aladdin was released in theaters. Since then, there have been two sequels, and a recently released a remake. This 2019 remake of Aladdin stars Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and Will Smith as the Genie.

Like the original, the movie tells the incredible love story of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin the “street rat.” The movie follows the plot as Aladdin and Jasmine sing “A Whole New World” and the Genie has a new take on “Never Had a Friend Like Me.” As promised, the movie presents the story of Aladdin, his three wishes, and how he finally gets the girl.

However, along with their incredible love story, there is a new empowering plot going on in the palace. Like the original, Princess Jasmine’s father is the Sultan of a place called Agrabah. Also like the original, her father and the villain, Jafar, wish for her to marry a man so that he can become the next ruler.

Though in the original movie Jasmine refuses to cooperate, the new live-action movie puts its own spin on it. Jasmine feels that she can really make a difference in Agrabah, and she wishes to become the next Sultan. Unsurprisingly, she is shot down because of the fact that she is a woman. Jasmine is constantly pressured to keep her ideas to herself because as a woman, it wasn’t her place. She is told by Jafar that it is better to be seen and not heard, but Princess Jasmine is not fond of being kept silent.

As Princess Jasmine fights to be heard, we get introduced to a new song that was not in the original movie. In the song “Speechless,”  not only does her beautiful voice touch the viewers hearts, but her words do as well. Jasmine sings the song twice throughout the movie, both times addressing the idea that she refuses to be silenced.

In the chorus she sings:

“I won’t be silenced

No, you wanna see me tremble when you try it

All I know is I won’t go speechless

Speechless

‘Cause I’ll breathe

When they try to suffocate me

Don’t you underestimate me

‘Cause I know that I won’t go speechless

All I know is I won’t go speechless”

It’s extremely empowering to see this twist on the movie. Seeing a Disney Princess fight for her rights as a woman to lead and to be heard, is an inspiration.

Along with the twist on Jasmine’s character, the film-makers also added a new character. Looking back at the original, while it is a classic, it can be easy to miss the lack of representation. IMBD has 26 registered voice actors listed under the cast of Aladdin (1992), six of which being women and the other 20 being men. Looking back, Jasmine is the only female character with speaking lines, as the others only sing in one or two songs.

Disney may have realized how this would have looked now in 2019, and added Dalia, played by Nasim Pedrad. In the film, Dalia is Jasmine’s handmaiden, confidante, and best friend. Dalia is the person who she comes to with all of her problems, and Jasmine supports Dalia as much as Dalia supports her.

Dalia was not just a side character though, as she falls in love with someone as well, and looks forward to her new life and her own happily-ever-after. She is a straightforward woman and knows what she wants, and how to get it. She is strong, however, she still has a soft side. She gets giddy when she’s nervous, dreams of her fairytale, and wishes for a time she gets to be “princess.”

While Disney had made obvious changes to the movie to fit with the 2019 new age and feminist times, some critics believe it is still not enough. Critics have pointed out that Prince Anders, played by Billy Magnussen, was the only white, on-screen character. Prince Anders comes from the country of Skånland, a real municipality in Norway, and was a rejected suitor of Princess Jasmine who replaced Prince Achmed, in the animated original.

Some believe that choosing a prince from another true or fictional Middle Eastern country, or sticking with Prince Achmed would have been better than a white character. They believe that movies can still be great, without having a white character on screen. Vanity Fair said, “Why did the studio need to invent a brand-new white character for this live-action remake, especially since its story largely centers on a fictional Middle Eastern country?”

Disney responded with a statement to the BBC saying, “Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control [special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals] were crew made up to blend in.”

Besides all of the news and political views, Aladdin is a good movie, with lots of great stunts, costumes, dancing, and music. Check out the soundtrack on Spotify too. It is not very similar to the original, as this new take has much more comedic relief thanks to Will Smith and his fresh take on the Genie. Overall, we give it a 5 out of 5 popcorns!

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