‘Aladdin:’ So It’s Come to This

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‘Aladdin:’ So It’s Come to This

‘Aladdin:’ So It’s Come to This

For one reason or another, some movies just aren’t suited for the live-action treatment.  Some are simply do engrained in the specific medium of their choice — in this case, animation — that they cannot possibly be divorced from it.  They are, from the ground up, tied so intrinsically to it that any attempt for them to be otherwise is simply wasted effort.

Don’t get me wrong: Disney’s had a phenomenal run when it comes to live-action remake of their animated classicsMaleficient (2014) was a biting and inciteful deconstruction of one of their more lamentably dated damsel-in-distress stories.  Cinderella (2015) was by and large a significant improvement over the lackluster original.  The same could be said about The Jungle Book (2016), whose first draft never quite worked for me in the same way that it seemed to for other moviegoers.  Even Beauty and the Beast (2017) was not without its charms, giving us some memorable music updates and some well-meaning tinkering to the classic structure of the Best Picture-nominated original.

‘Aladdin:’ So It’s Come to This

But 2019 looks like it will test whether Disney really can just serve up seconds on its most beloved and iconic animated classics cart blanche.  The Lion King (2019) is a supposedly ‘live action’ remake of a movie without a single Human character in it, making many wonder whether it’s really just an animated movie by another name.  I can’t imagine many people really care about yet another Tim Burton Disney remake after those two God-awful Alice in Wonderland movies, and yet we’re being saddled with his take on their iconic (if lightweight) Dumbo (2019).  And that’s to say nothing of Aladdin (2019).

Perhaps more than most Disney movies made in the 90s, Aladdin (1992) was uncannily perfectly suited to animation.  The Genie’s character design — a giant-sized Blue semi-human whose frenetic energy and larger than life personality actively resisted the basic idea of live-action narrative — was a product of pure animation at its base conception.  Robin Williams was the ideal choice for his manic, over-the-top energy, and finally found a form (animation ) that could at least make a serious attempt at containing his boundless self on-screen (although, in the end, nothing ever really could).  Nothing about it was ever going to work “in reality.”

‘Aladdin:’ So It’s Come to This

But that’s not stopping the animation giant from trying anyway (and likely earning a cool billion dollar prize in the process).  And, for what it’s worth, the first-look at Robin Williams as the Genie were actually encouraging.  Rather than trying to be “faithful” to the animated original, they reinterpreted his appearance for the new medium: a normally-toned man with his iconic blue-and-gold coloration coming from his exotic clothing.  It worked for the Broadway show and had every indication of working on the big screen too.

The latest look at the characters, however, is less than endearing: a superimpose blue haze over a CGI’d-to-death Will Smith that verges on the grotesque.  It is a fiercely ugly character and a genuine embarrassment to the industry that produced it: a grim reminder of everything that can go wrong when you simply don’t consider how the effect will actually look with real people having to bring it all to life.  And at the risk of being the buzzkill here, isn’t it about time that we left Aladdin to Robin Williams and moved on with our lives?

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