Be Careful What You Wish For – Why the Aladdin Remake is Terrible

 

My therapist told me, before I fired her, that I’m supposed to try to be more positive. So let’s be optimistic. Aladdin is a movie. It really is. It has actors. It has dialogue. It has CGI, a lot of it, and it even has cinematography. And I can honestly say that I haven’t had a better time in the theatre since I found that 5 cent piece on the floor right before I entered the place where it was being shown. And in this spirit of… nicety… let’s start this no doubt extremely positive review.

That totally really happened and the Aladdin ticket salesman totally existed.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” – Ticket salesman at my local movie theatre.

Maddy: “My life is in utter and complete shambles. As I gaze upon the moonlight I am met by the inevitable entropy of life! Oh woe is me, for my life is pure agony. My future, my past and my present are in conflict with my wants and needs. As I push through my life I cannot help but wonder, nay, hope, yearn, that I find but the tiniest scrap of pleasure and fulfillment. But alas, but alas, the spirits preserve me. I cannot get it out of my mind, it has gazed into my very being. And it, the movie, still haunts me. Devours my very soul!”

Analyze: “I hope I still have my therapist’s number somewhere…”

Maddy: “Her life will be forfeit, her passions thrown to the wind as she realises the horror of this movie and the mental scars it leaves on your soul. It was horrible Analyze! HORRIBLE!”

Analyze: “Man up, Maddius! You’re ruining my buzz! Let’s try to keep things positive.”

Maddy: “Positive? How?”

Analyze: “Just look at the bright side of life. Take a walk on the sunny side of the street. Cheer up. Life is a box of chocolates. And, and you might not have thought of this, just stop being depressed. There you go, now you’re all fixed. Thank you 3 years of college.”

Maddy: “Wow, you’re right. I am feeling better! Now let’s talk about this movie and all the positive elements it has!”

Analyze: “Yes, please!”

Maddy: “…”

Analyze: “… you start.”

Maddy: “Oh, but after you.”

Analyze: “Oh, no, I insist.”

Maddy: “Oh, but I could never, possibly, even begin to imagine… You begin. What was your favourite moment, my dearest Analyze-chan?”

Analyze: “It ended.”

Maddy: “Well, that’s all wrapped up then. That was the full extent of this review. Now we never need speak of this again. Goodbye everybody! Have a grea-“

Analyze: “You’re not getting off that easy, you little runt. Spill it!”

Trust Fall in a Pillow Suit

Maddy: “Well, my biggest buggaboo with this movie is that it doesn’t trust you. You see my beloved Analyze-boi, this movie has a penchant for violence. It just loves to take its big ol’ hammer o’ communication and smash you in the face with it. Smash until all your teeth pop out and it can steal them and sell them to the tooth fairy. An example of this is that Aladdin feels the need to mention he’s more than just a street rat about every five minutes. I know, I got out my chronometer.”

Analyze: “But the cartoon movie did the same thing! You need to make it obvious for the pesky brats that parents drag to the movie theatre to spoil the experience of decent people, Maddius! Won’t you please think of them! It did a good job of making it obvious! Very obvious…”

Maddy: “The cartoon also tried to show you a bit more. Jasmine’s characterisation is a good example. There’s a scene where she’s outside with her beloved stripy kitty, who has a piece of spotty underwear in his mouth. The man in the nice hat that’s bigger than his head appears and scolds his PG-13 daughter, stating that Jasmine must eventually pick a suitor to marry. Jasmine says she feels trapped and goes to the ever so convenient bird cage nearby to pick up a bird that looks very trapped.”

Analyze: “Yeah, but do you really want to bother with things like symbolism in this sort of movie? That makes people’s heads hurt. Much better to keep it simple. Very simple…”

The Sultan's uncomfortable stare at the bird is the best part. Jasmine must not come to know of their secret love.

The hat who wears a Sultan distressed at Jasmine being all unconventional by wanting rights and shit.

Maddy: “But the symbolism provides a wonderful grace note. Her father, well-meaning as he is, states these rules have their place and that we must follow them. He picks the birdy out of Jasmine’s hand and, with a sad look on his face, puts it back in the cage, symbolising it has to stay where it’s supposed to be. He walks away, Jasmine looks sad, then inspired, walks to the bird cage and releases all the birds. Making the statement that she will not allow herself to be caged by society. In the 2019 movie Naomi-Jasmine just says she feels so trapped. Over and over again and over and over and over and ove-.”

Analyze: “That’s enough! You’re leaving out that she’s speechless. Don’t forget that she’s speechless That’s very important.. The fucki- I mean, wonderful new song they added to illustrate how society can’t make her speechless cuz she’s a strong independent woman. It’s very subtle symbolism, I totally get that you wouldn’t have noticed.”

No Sandwiches Allowed

Maddy: “What I ceytainly noticed is that these characters don’t feel real at all. They feel like cardboard versions of those in the animated movie. They are literally drawings on paper and somehow the actual humans are less human.”

Analyze: “I’ll grant, at times it seemed like the characters passed out and their lifeless husks flopped around on stage. And at the very least Will Smith’s voice was in a heavy coma, but… Jasmine and Aladdin… were… there.”

Maddy: “There to take the hands of this beautiful person called plot so that she may take Aladdin and Jasmine wherever she goes AND THROW THEIR FACES IN THE SAND, SAYING “DO THIS NOW! Aladdin, be awkward for no reason and talk about jams all the time! That’s royal stuff.”

For being supposedly three powerful men they find Jasmine remarkably scary.

The eyes of three men about to be scolded big time after they try to plan out Jasmine’s wedding.

Analyze: “Well… I guess when you put it that way… What really bothers me about it is that Jasmine is so flakey all of a sudden. She likes Aladdin and then he does something and she dislikes him and this happens over and over again. In the animated movie she dislikes him for planning her own wedding with the Sultan and Jafar behind her back, which is royal behaviour but against her desire for independence, and then eventually warms to him as he’s more himself. In the live action movie she dislikes him because he’s socially inept, then is convinced to give him another chance, and then dislikes him again because she doesn’t like his peacocking on the dance floor until she gives him another chance. Deep stuff, guys. Be sure to tell me if you find any whales at the bottom of that kiddy pool.”

Maddy: “Don’t forge-“

Analyze: “And another focking thing! Yes, that kind of is in line with Aladdin facing the consequences of pretending to be what you’re not. But it’s not consistent. It also disconnects it from the feminist themes that were originally part of Jasmine’s arc. The writers probably thought they were brilliantly filling another plot hole by giving a reason for why Jasmine was kept in the palace, but in actuality they’re largely getting rid of the idea that she’s staying there because it’s expected of her as a princess.”

Maddy: “Which they sti-“

Analyze: “Which they still try to cram in by giving her the acid trip that is that damn Speechless song. Which is much less artful and not at all organic. Yes, they wanted Jasmine to have some agency, I get that. But instead of using moments like Jafar, Aladdin and the Sultan choosing for her to set up this break from tradition, which ties into actual substantive restrictions on her freedom due to her sex, they try to cram this in by Jafar just telling her to shut up. Which is so trivial and unbelievably blatantly obvious that even the Sultan from the cartoon movie would’ve said it was a little on the nose. Jafar might as well have told her to march into the kitchen and make him a sandwich.”

Maddy: “… Darn, that one just stings Analyze. Weren’t you trying to be positive?”

Analyze: “You’re right, Maddius. Let’s be positive. I positively know that this positive change in this positive movie introducing the plot element of the mystery of the positive murder of Jasmine’s positive mother which is never solved is positively pointless! And yet, despite the price for adding this being that they leave this completely unresolved, which is not generally what you want in a self-contained movie, it actually takes AWAY from the themes as well. It’s a remarkable display of multitasking.”

Big Hat, Small Brain

Maddy: “Which presumably she learned from dear daddy-o, the ditzy Cartoon Sultan who turned into… a seriously spineless Sultan. Seriously, what exactly did he do? Nothing. Except that he perfectly combines being so serious with being passive all the time. If this were ‘Game of Thrones’ he’d have been eaten alive, half-digested, spit out and then stomped on by his supposedly weaker allies.”

The Sultan doing his best ant impression.

The Sultan greeting a prince. We pointed him out because he’s so insignificant in the frame you’d never spot him otherwise. Shoutout to heavy-handed metaphors, btw, for no particular reason.

Analyze: “I think you’re mistaken in that he wasn’t a seriously spineless character, he just wasn’t a character at all. He wasn’t meant to come across as spineless. One of the few scenes we have of him with Jafar has him putting the guy in his place. There’s just so microscopically little character building for him that he looks passive because of it. His character just has no role except to greet princes, remind Jasmine she has to marry and glower at people like a little puppy dog. The plot unfolds around him.”

Maddy: “And results in the Sultan talking to people he really shouldn’t. Like the Jafar. If this movie is trying to be all realistic, why does the Sultan tolerate Jafar’s naughty behaviour? You see, this movie is like a zoo…”

Analyze: “Oh god.”

Maddy: “The Sultan is the big lion who loves a good ol’ nap and Jafar is a shaved little kitty who likes to play all the time. Every time they’re in the room the Ja-kitty loves to nibble on the Lio-tan’s ears. Pull them, show some teeth. In this movie the lion just swats the kitty away every time, when in real life the lion would get tired of it AND RIP THE KITTY APART AND EAT ITS INSIDES!”

Analyze: “If you tortured that metaphor anymore they’d allow you to skip the line at The Hague.”

Maddy: “The sultan in the cartoon was great! He was my kind of guy! A ditzy slightly stupid Sultan who is such a bad judge of character that he listens to a guy who’s so obviously evil he exudes toxic fumes. It was a fantastically funny dynamic. But they can’t do that, because both are always so serious. Why Analyze-chan? Whyyyy?”

More Cartoonish than the Cartoon

Analyze: “Well, here’s the answer… the plot says ‘no.’ If Jafar had his pretty little head cut off we wouldn’t have all those wonderful scenes of Aladdin and Jasmine mooning at each other, because then there’d be no conflict. Although the movie seems to have a split personality on this account. It seems to want to be the more realistic adult version of the story with politics, characters with backstories, no over the top lunacy or idiocy, etc.”

Maddy: “But it’s full of over the top lunacy and silliness.”

Analyze: “And its nonsensical side just ends up being highlighted because of this contrast. The illogical stuff just seemed whimsical along with the over-the-top characters from the cartoon, but it seems confounding now.”

Maddy: “Which is ironic, considering the best parts of this movie were the hammiest parts. Just look at Jafar when he turned into a genie and was charging his Spirit Bomb. He’s over the top, he’s screaming, he’s drunk on power and lovin’ it. “

Analyze: “And most of the serious character moments they gave him were terrible and not really substantive. They gave him the backstory of coming from nothing, but it didn’t give us much insight into how that affected him, it was just used as set-up for the plot.”

Maddy: “For one whole scene.”

Analyze: “They gave him an underlying philosophy of ‘if you’re second you’re nothing’ but it’s not exactly a thought-provoking worldview, so thematically it’s flat. They also did nothing with that except, you fucking guessed it, set up the ending plot point where he gets trapped-“

Maddy: “Tricked?”

Little known fact: When Jafar smiles it kills every kitten within a 5 mile radius.

Where else do you see a villain with a hat that makes him look like a snake who uses words like abject, ecstatic, exceed and merit. And just look at that smile.

Analyze: “It was so incredibly obvious it is not worth the title of trickery. Overall this Jafar is more childishly simplistic than the original character who was in a movie which was more explicitely made for children. And unlike cartoon Jafar, this one lacks a personality. He’s just this angry short-haired dude. A far cry from the slithering, verbose villain he was in the original movie.”

Maddy: “With a much better fashion sense. Just look at the guy, he’s the kind of guy kids wanna dress up as for halloween.”

Analyze: “It was all part of one big, beautiful package. His snake-like dress, long face, even his smile (highlighting his canines). It all contributed to his villainous appearance. It exuded evil and trickery. The Jafar in this movie is just a guy who looks constantly constipated. Jafar originally also stood out because of his elevated use of language, as well as his hamminess and puns, but here there’s very little of that here. Like a great many characters, there’s little to him to set him apart from any other character in this movie’s grey mass of characters.”

Maddy: “Not only that, but I’m just glad that this Jafar makes my favourite character Iago seem like the brains of the outfit. Jafar’s main motiviation in this movie is to wage war against the weaker allies of Agrabah. Why? To show the big guys they too are a force to be reckoned with! By utterly obliterating part of their own army in case they get invaded.”

Analyze: “It’s the typical cardboard villain schtick. And cardboard doesn’t have any brains. They had to have him want to do something obviously evil like attack allies, couldn’t have had him have any sort of redeemable quality, now could they?”

Maddy: “Oh he most certainly looks like the kind of guy who kicks puppies in his spare time.”

Analyze: “Kicks? Strangles. He never wants to be number 2 in anything. But overall his goal has to be war on a defenceless ally. When, in fact, they had a pretty good opportunity here. If they were going for a more adult, more realistic movie they should’ve kept the Sultan as a complete dolt.”

Maddy: “Hey, he’s not a dolt! He’s adorable. He’s the kind of guy you just wanna give a big old hug.”

You don't want to know what's in Iago's mouth. The Sultan did it.

The ditzy Sultan who’d rather play with his toys than run the city being expertly manipulated by his Grand Vizier.

Analyze: “Shown how the dolt’s mismanagement of Agrabah was making people, like Aladdin, poor and then demonstrated how Jafar would’ve been a better ruler. So then there’s a moral conundrum: Is it better for the power-hungry but competent person to climb to power over a mountain of corpses (definitely my vote), or for this dolt to pass on the reigns to his inexperienced daughter or some streetrat who’s never ruled a day in his life.”

Maddy: “But they did the complete opposite. It’s mentioned in the movie that all the naughty soldiers who are being so mean to Aly-boi are following Jafar’s orders. So turns out the power-hungry Jafar is also an incompetent ruler. Especially compared to the sweet, kind and caring Jasmine.”

Game of Dopes

Analyze: “Who, of course, has to be an expert at maps and shit because that totally equates to being a good ruler. It’s not at all a clumsy way to try convince the audience that she’s competent but just underappreciated because of her sex. I guess the writers of ‘Aladdin’ really liked the Sansa approach to showing leadership from ‘Game of Thrones.’ And how ironic is it that Jafar controls the guards throughout the story without a problem and then he has to become Sultan to have the loyalty of the guards? What?! It’s plot-induced amnesia if I’ve ever seen it.”

Maddy: “But fear not, Hakim, the same guard who says to Jafar that he follows the law, breaks the law by supporting his beloved Jasmine and the wonderful Sultan over the ‘icky crowned’ sultan Jafar.”

Analyze: “You see, allow me to explain, that was their attempt at court politics and complex characterization.”

Maddy: “Excuse you?”

This is an authentic picture of Hakim's personality.

Here’s where we’d normally put a picture of Hakim, but he’s so inconsequential that he wasn’t even in the trailer.

Analyze: “Well, it might’ve worked a little bit better if Hakim had actually been a character before then. When he was basically just a piece of scenery in the background. They tried to have the moment Jafar becomes Sultan be this internal conflict. This man dedicated to the law on the one hand (we know this because he states “THE LAW IS IMPORTANT TO ME!” once) and dedicated to the royal family on the other (because the sultan always shouts for him to imprison people) has to choose between the two. But because there’s almost nothing of him before that it completely falls flat. It’s like if the deciding role in Ned Stark’s betrayal had been played by Jeyne Pool.”

Maddy: “Realistically the guy should’ve gone with whoever pays him.” *spins dagger around that stops at Jafar*

So Here We Shall Explain Why The Choice of Going From Cartoon to Live Action Was A Bad Decision (aka We Couldn’t Come Up With a Title)

Analyze: “All of this indicates a pattern. One also visible with Iago. They try to go for a more realistic portrayal of him. He’s much more ‘parrot-like’ than he was in the original movie, where he was much more anthropomorphized. I assume this was because they thought that would’ve felt out of place, anthropomorphized animals being a staple of fables, but in doing so they sacrificed the wonderful dynamic between Jafar and Iago. And they replaced it with, what? Hakim?”

Maddy: “I…”

Analyze: “I say that because it’s absurd. He’s not a character.”

Maddy: “Of course! They had to update Iago. And so they presented the Iago 2.0. Equiped with heat-seeking sensors, state-of-the-art wings capable of flying at 150 km/h and a hidden grow option when powered by Jafar magic. This version will acquire all the knowledge you need for your evil masterplans. And don’t forget, the Iago 2.0 has received better A.I. to ensure it will break the plot in a realistic way. Buy one in your hidden government store today!”

Analyze: “And then at the end he tries to flee and Jafar takes him with him. Indicating that Iago does have his own very human fears and desires, despite the fact that this is not really indicated throughout the rest of the movie. He’s just shown as an extension of Jafar’s will. They tried to have their parrot cake and eat it too. They tried to make it adult and grown-up while still hitting that same point, and so it fell flat.”

Ah, the good old times back when Iago had a personality.

Could you imagine this in a live action movie? You don’t want to.

Maddy: “Which is why the cartoony parrot is so much better than this CGI robot. Because the audience is inundated with the cartoon elements they’re also far more willing to believe that an anthropomorphic parrot has wants and needs. It doesn’t look odd to see Jafar and Iago trade quips with each other like two human beings. It doesn’t break immersion to see the parrot slam into walls and see flying sultans playing in front of his eyes.”

Rubbed Us the Wrong Way

Analyze: “Limits of the medium. Well anyway, that’s the end of this CG. Farewell all my lovely future victi-“

Maddy: “But what about the Fresh Prince of Agrabah?”

Analyze: “Nobody needs to talk about the genie. The genie is best forgotten as soon as possible.”

Maddy: “What are you talking about? Will Smith truly gave a magical performance.”

Analyze: “Yes, he put a sleeping spell on himself.”

Maddy: “Easily carried the movie if you ask me.”

Analyze: “Carried it to hell in a handbasket!”

Maddy: “But Analyze, does that mean you dislike the genie?”

Analyze: “They completely missed the point of his “personnage.” His je ne sais quoi. Basically, they done fucked up the basics.”

Maddy: “How can you say that when the Willie Genie was such a ‘tour de forza?'”

Genie being the twinkliest alpha ever.

“Showtime.” “No, I’m in charge, okay?” *Bitch what?* “I say when it’s time.” *Buh bye bitch*

Analyze: “That was part of the whole problem of it. The genie was acting like a dominant alpha male. Throughout the story he tells Aladdin what to do, zips him around, tells him to fuck off when he first asks him for a favour in getting into Jasmine’s room, shoves him off to talk to Jasmine when he’s clearly having a panic attack at the very thought and is generally a condescending prick to him during the first meeting. Laughing at him for not knowing a genie can’t free himself.”

Maddy: “Who doesn’t know that a genie can’t free himself? Does he never talk to genies?”

Analyze: “This whole being an asshole thing suits some of us fine, but in the genie’s case he needed to be submissive and nice to contrast the later moment when he’s freed. At the end when he becomes human he tells Aladdin to wish for something and then tells him to fuck off, but it falls completely flat because he’s been giving him lip all movie.”

Maddy: “Which is so sad, because Aladdin is the Genie’s only friend. Wasn’t the Genie genuinely impressed with Aladdin ‘not being that guy?’ Then why is he being such a, excuse your poor ears mr. Analyze, ding-a-ling to the nice guy? He’s all nice and submissive to Jafar later on.”

Analyze: “Well, who wouldn’t be for a man with a jawline like tha-“

Maddy: “But he isn’t seduced by the great jawline. Because he realises the Jafar is evil. Instead the genie falls for the fair handmaiden Dahlia. Basically, he’s all over the map and feels artificial. There’s no reason for any of it. Except that the writers want it to happen at the time. Is it because the genie has read the script? He’s a guy with phenomenal cosmic powers (in an itty bitty living space), so he does have the power to go behind the fourth wall. We saw him replay the movie earlier on, so I guess he was planning ahead. That’s rather sneaky of him though.”

Analyze: “If only that was the worst thing about it. The genie got handmaid girl to like him because he pretended to be someone else. In the end he even becomes something else than what he was. So what is this movie trying to say thematically? That you should be yourself, or that you shouldn’t? You don’t know that, do you Maddy? Nobody knows it. Will Smith didn’t know it. Aladdin didn’t know it. Jasmine didn’t know it. The writers sure as shit didn’t know it!”

Maddy: “You know, when you put it like that… That’s amazing!”

Analyze: “… what?”

Maddy: “This movie is so deep, so complex, that we’re not meant to know. It doesn’t present any answers. It presents questions, complex moral stances we’re meant to ponder. Questions we have to try and answer for ourselves, by thinking everything through and coming to the conclusions on our own. It’s not about holding our hands, it’s about guiding us, then setting us free. Like Jasmine’s birds. This movie is a philosophical masterpiece. I see that now. Thanks Analyze-chan. :D”

Analyze: “My life is in utter and complete shambles. As I gaze upon the moonlight I am met by the inevitable entropy of life!’

Maddy: “Analyze?”

Analyze: “Oh woe is me, for my life is pure agony. My future, my past and my present are in conflict with my wants and needs. As I push through my life I cannot help but wonder, nay, hope, yearn! That I find but the tiniest scrap of pleasure and fulfillment.”

Maddy: “Are you oka-“

Analyze: “But alas, ALAS, the spirits preserve me! I cannot get it out of my mind! It has gazed into my very being! My very soul! And it, the movie, still haunts me. Devouring my hopes and dreams!”

Maddy: “Oh boy, we’re making another trip to the psychologist, aren’t we?”

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Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the Aladdin (1993) and the official trailer of Aladdin (2019). The first image is an official promotional image for Aladdin (2019). We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. Aladdin (2019) and Aladdin (1993) and all promotional images are owned by Walt Disney Pictures.

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