I…I legitimately didn’t think I’d be doing another one of these so soon. Also like…exactly a month later.
I’m just going to go on the record with this now: I do not like judging films based off their trailers. I have been disappointed and pleasantly surprised in the past, so I do understand that trailers are not necessarily representative of the actual film they are advertising.
HOWEVER, a trailer’s purpose is to sell the movie it is advertising. If it fails at adequately selling the movie to me, then the trailer has failed to build hype for the movie, thus making a concern for the film’s quality a valid deduction. Or is in induction?
My point is: Just because a trailer sucks doesn’t mean the movie sucks, but if the trailer sucks I am well within my rights to have some reservations regarding the quality of the film in question.
Is that fair?
We all on the same page?
THAT FUCKING NEW TRAILER SUCKED IAGO’S DISTURBING BIRD TESTICLES.
Aladdin is hands down one of my favourite Disney films.
Hell, for a long time it was my number one favourite Disney film of all time! I know that movie backwards and forwards. I grew up with these characters. I wished I had a Genie as a friend, I wanted to be as beautiful and clever and strong willed as Jasmine, I had a crush on Aladdin, I wanted a tiger for a pet, and Jafar scared to ever living shit out of me.
I am not kidding. He creeped me out SO much that just seeing the colours red and black together gave me fucking chills. Now it’s like one of my favourite colour combos, but when I was eight it skeeved me out!
And I like Guy Ritchie! He’s directed one of the most unashamedly ridiculous, over-the-top, and entertaining fantasy films I’ve ever fucking seen!
Not to mention I was hyped when I saw the first teaser trailer. I was a little taken aback at the Aladdin reveal, as even though the actor playing him is absolutely adorable, I found the lighting and the angle they used to reveal him hardly flattering per say, but whatever right? It’s just a teaser.
I haven’t really kept up with most of the news around the movie, I will admit. I did hear when people started discussing why the filmmakers have seemingly replaced Iago and the captain of the guard, Razul, with a completely new character who will act as both of them, despite clearly showing Iago in the teaser.
I also heard when people started murmuring when it was discovered they had added a random white prince for princess Jasmine for seemingly no reason.
And then, of course, I saw the uproar when the cast photo was released, and Will Smith wasn’t blue. Of course, that was settled when it was established that this was to be his “human hype-man” look, which is fine, of course, but people did worry that this would be the version of Genie we’d end up seeing through the majority of the film.
You know what? After this trailer, I don’t even care that he looks like a scrawnier, shorter version of Kazaam, I’d rather see that than this hideous uncanny valley monstrosity they show in the trailer.
Let’s get my complaints about the Genie out of the way right now: it’s disturbing to look at. I would have honestly preferred an attempt at CGI over this. Hell, I’ve seen someone’s edits to make this version of the Genie look more like the animated film but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, we have to SHOW OFF that it’s Will Smith because actors have massive fucking egos and he’s a headlining star in a Disney remake that would obviously not make ANY money on the name alone, right?
The Disney Remakes
I’ve actually been one of the only people I know who will defend the Disney live action remakes.
Every one, besides The Jungle Book, so far has entertained me at the very least. I’ll admit I was more willing to dismiss the accusations that it’s Disney being lazy in the past. I mean, obviously it’s lazy, but I thought maybe there was a creative undercurrent behind each remake. Was it necessary? No. But could you potentially do some interesting, creative, new things with these old and beloved IPs? I think so.
Alice and Wonderland may not have been a very good adaptation, of either the Disney film or the original novel, but Tim Burton had a vision. And damn it, I thought the Jabberwocky was cool. Christopher Lee is never not cool.
I’m probably one of the only people on the planet that likes Maleficent. If nothing else, I appreciate its attempt to try something drastically different from the source material and it’s one of the best allegories for a sexual assault survivor’s road to recovery I’ve ever seen. If you go into the movie thinking about it like that, I actually think the film is quite beautiful. It has a lot of problems still, and I won’t defend it too much, but it did actually try something different.
The Jungle Book wanted to go back to the original book’s roots. It was a disgustingly awful creative misfire, in my opinion, and I will never understand why critics love it so much, but again it was trying something new.
Cinderella wanted to add some actual chemistry between the prince and Ella, Beauty and the Beast changed the core moral from “freaks stick together” to “don’t let people get away with bullshit, even if you love them”. These are interesting ideas.
Could they have been done better?
Should they have not bothered and just left the classics alone?
But there’s something in me that can appreciate the effort to adapt something old and breathe new life into it.
Though, considering Disney movies are pretty timeless, and have more than enough breath left in them and really don’t need the boost, they really ought to try doing this with the movies that failed commercially but might benefit from a retry, like Atlantis: The Lost Empire or The Black Cauldron, but hey, baby steps.
I would like to break from my overall point to beg Disney to make a live action Atlantis and please pour Avatar levels of money into it. I know you won’t, but God that would make me so happy.
Back to my point.
I was willing to give Disney the benefit of the doubt I know they didn’t really deserve.
I can’t really defend Aladdin now.
The Old Jafar
I almost feel like going after the Genie is kind of moot at this point.
It’s been memed on plenty enough already, and everything I could say here has already been said. It’s uncanny, it’s uncreative, it’s distracting, and it’s unlikely the Genie in the live-action film will be as much of a symbol of potential freedom and opportunity as the original. It’s also doubtful that we’ll be seeing a resurgence of the genuinely funny Will Smith of Fresh Prince of Bel Air we were all hoping for. I would love to be proven wrong, but I think it’s safe to say that thing’s don’t look terribly promising.
Since everyone is so fixated on the Genie, I would instead like to fixate on another element of the trailer: the introduction of the villain.
I’ve mentioned before how Jafar scared me when I was younger, but I’d like to elaborate.
For a very long time, not only did Jafar scare me, he was the only Disney villain who really creeped me out and got under my skin for a very long time. This might seem strange, considering Disney’s list of varied and terrifying villains ranging from the Evil Queen/Old Hag from Snow White to Judge Claude Frollo to literally the Devil (Chernabog). There are plenty of villains to be freaked out by:
- Shere Khan is quiet and deadly.
- Maleficent is loud and powerful.
- Scar is conniving and brutal.
- Ursula is manipulative and intense.
- Gaston is overbearing and controlling.
- Clayton is cruel and manic.
- Hades is death incarnate.
I could go on.
It might seem weird, but there are very specific reasons I remember Jafar being the character that creeped me out more than the others.
Part of it is his design. Just looking at him, you can tell he’s bad news. He’s all sharp angles and sneaky cat eyes and darkness. His outfit is fantastic and the fact that his massive shoulder pads take up so much room that he literally blocks out light the first time he’s introduced as the royal vizier does a great job at establishing this guy as a threat. As my dad likes to put it, he has Cruella de Vil’s shoulder pads and Snape’s billowy cape of doom. That just speaks to all kinds of ‘nope’!
I also think it says a lot that he needs a fat, little, ridiculous creature like Iago on his shoulder at all times as comic relief. Beyond just making exposition a little easier to get away with because he has someone to talk to, I genuinely think this character would just be off-putting if there wasn’t any levity.
Then there’s his voice. Jonathan Freeman’s performance is fantastic. He hits that perfect villain voice where he’s both deep and intimidating as well as high pitched and frantic. Jafar goes from slow, languorous tones oozing with delicious evil to loud, bombastic and screeching insanity. You hear him talk and you just know he’s not someone you should cross. When he straight up just loses his mind and gives in to ultimate power, it’s probably my favourite part of his performance. I mean, the manipulative, calm voice is pretty good, but there’s nothing more terrifying than seeing this guy, who is capable of such calm and distinguished cool, melting into maniacal laughter while his eyes develop red spirals. Talk about freaaaaaky.
His personality is also another intimidating thing about him. He’s a sneaky and manipulative person. He’s a total Gríma Wormtongue to the Sultan, and the fact that he can just hypnotize him whenever he wants is pretty creepy, if you ask me. I think it says a lot about his ambitions that he already basically runs Agrabah through the Sultan, yet still desires more power.
Then there’s his plot. This was something that went over my head when I was really really REALLY little, but certainly something I couldn’t ignore as I watched the movie endlessly on sick days at my grandma and grandpa’s house growing up.
Jafar’s initial plot is to get the lamp, become Sultan, and kill the royal family. In the beginning, he just wants to replace the royal family and laughs at the idea of forcing the Sultan and Jasmine off a cliff and watch them go splat. It’s only once he gets the lamp, after he’s been deposed and humiliated by Aladdin and Jasmine, that he truly snaps and his plans alter.
Yes, he becomes the sultan, but he also becomes a powerful sorcerer and uses his new magic powers for “abject humiliation”, getting off on watching his enemies bow to him against their will. He then reveals Aladdin as the street rat he is instead of the prince he wished to be, tosses him in a tower and shoots him into God knows where (Caradhras maybe?) and then turns his attentions to the royal family, his shadow consuming them.
The next we see them, he’s actually not prepping them for execution. Instead, he’s decided to keep up with the whole abject humiliation thing and has made the Sultan his court fool – who Iago tortures by force feeding him crackers for his amusement, which must be pretty painful, actually, and could kill him if he choked on the dry crackers – and has given Jasmine a sexy little outfit (you can tell it’s the sexy outfit compared to her normal dress because it doesn’t have sleeves and also it’s red).
I would like to bring up again that she has only just turned sixteenin the continuity of the film. Hell, she might even still be fifteenat this point. We’re not entirely sure exactly how old Jafar is, but earlier in the film the Sultan remarks on how old he is compared to Jasmine when he tries using his mind control powers to compel the Sultan to force Jasmine to marry him, at which point, I guess the plan was to become sultan through marriage and then kill the father and daughter for the honeymoon, since he believed the lamp to be lost…
Why he felt he needed the lamp to begin with when he obviously could have brainwashed the Sultan earlier and not run into the problem of Aladdin showing up in town on an elephant/monkey now seems like a serious flaw on his part, but I guess the lamp made things go a lot more smoothly so…kind of a plot hole? Not really?
He did also want to be a sorcerer…I’m getting off topic.
That scene, paired with the heavy lines in his face and his ability to so convincingly cosplay a decrepit old man, it’s pretty clear this guy’s is just a little bit north of sixteen.
Just a bit.
After Jasmine begs for mercy on behalf of her father, Jafar offers to make her queen (I would also like to point out he turns her literal chains into a crown to propose this engagement, forming metaphoric chains via marriage to him. It’s presented as just a different form of enslavement: maid servant or wifey. Just thought that’s kind of cool). Seems like a weird move, doesn’t it, considering the plan was always to kill her?
Actually, at this point, it seems kind of pointless. I mean, he has everything he wants, right? He has political power, he has magical power. I mean, the only thing a man with power like that could possibly be missing would be a lineage and
This is the part that got under my skin as a kid. Didn’t matter that I was unaware of what sex was, let alone the concept of sexual assault, but I sure as hell had been taught enough about basic human decency and ‘bad touch’ to know that this was fuuuuuuuuucked up.
And then Jasmine tells him to fuck off and he’s straight up about to beather into submission when he gets a better idea: why not roofies!? And then he proceeds to scream at and try to intimidate the poor Genie, who has said noto this idea, into brainwashing Jasmine to make her an obedient little fuckslave.
Goddamn Disney, y’all used to really not pull any punches.
Of course, the entire context of how fucked up this was went over my head when I was little, but the reason this villain in particular stayed with me is because these implications are dark AS FUCK and really disturbing.
It’s also really well done and serves to effectively parallel the villain and the hero: both want the princess, but the hero wanted help from the Genie to make himself good enough for her and the villain wanted to use the Genie to force her into his arms.
If you weren’t already certain that Aladdin’s a good boy and Jafar is a rat bastard, this more than proves it.
Of course, Frollo runs into the same disturbing territory, and now that I’m older Frollo skeeves me out a touch more (the whole being abusive towards his surrogate son who happens to be physically diabled as well as genocide kind of adds ticks towards Frollo being the bigger monster), it’s just that when I was little, I didn’t watch Hunchback as much. It’s probably my favourite or second favourite Disney movie now, but when I was younger it wasn’t really top of my Disney watchlist. Therefore, Jafar, in my mind, was the biggest creep.
At least the other Disney villains just wanted to murder the heroes!
…hmm…that sounds wrong.
Anyway, this long-winded explanation of Jafar’s character has a point.
Because Jafar is introduced in the new trailer.
You might not have even noticed him, I wouldn’t blame you.
And that’s the point…
The New Jafar
The new Jafar, as he’s presented right now, is NOT scary.
He’s NOT intimidating.
He’s NOT memorable.
That’s something that the original really was, to the point that he was brought back for the first sequel, made him a threat in Kingdom Hearts, as well as the villain leading the charge in Mickey’s House of Mouse/Villains.
Yes, I remember that movie.
Our new Jafar is the one who actually provides some narration in the trailer.
This might come as a shock to some. It certainly surprised a friend of mine, who believed the voice belonged to a child. And I really can’t blame her.
I’m not at all familiar with the actor playing Jafar, Marwan Kenzari. I’ve seen bits of Ben Hur, but I don’t think his character, Druses, was in any of the scenes I saw, I have no idea who Malik is in The Mummy (2017), and I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure of watching Murder on the Orient Express yet, but when I saw him for the first time I was confident he could at least lookthe part. He doesn’t look as terribly old as the animated Jafar does, but a younger, more attractive Jafar is not going to cause me to complain.
That’s not the problem.
The problem is HOLY SHIT HE’S NOT SCARY.
You get like a half second look at him, and he looks meek and small. So, thanks costume people for missing the point. Then there’s the lacklustre performance he gives delivering his lines. I just…uuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhhh.
- He sounds bored as hell. He doesn’t sound like he’s enjoying himself, he doesn’t sound evil, he doesn’t sound cool and calculating, he doesn’t sound excited to get his hands on the most powerful magical object in the world. He sounds sleepy.
- He sounds whiny. He doesn’t sound intimidating or like he’s some mastermind in control of everything around him. He sounds wimpy and preening.
- He sounds effeminate, and I have a distinct issue with framing male villains as effeminate or gay, which is something I’ve heard a few people I know describe the Jafar voiceover as sounding like. The filmmakers should know better than to rely on tired, offensive, and harmful Hollywood stereotypes and tricks to make their bad guy seem bad. The original presentation of Jafar already leans in on that trope to a degree with the way he speaks and how theatrical he is. Not to say you can’t be a manly straight dude and theatrical, because of course you can (hello Hugh Jackman!), but stereotypes being what they are, it’s not terribly likely that a big Disney movie will be nuanced enough to accurately portray a man comfortable enough with his sexuality to behave outside of strict gender norms without it being seen as somehow “bad”.
Pinkie wanted to try defending this move, positing that perhaps he sounds so weak and feeble because he was currently trying to trick Aladdin by playing a weak old man. Except the glimpse we see of Jafar is when he’s outside the Cave of Wonders with Aladdin and he’s clearly not in disguise, meaning it’s not likely he does the whole dress-up con in the adaptation…which genuinely confuses us both cos…why not keep that? I hope it makes sense narratively, but it seems like an odd thing to change.
Anyway, I can see where Pinkie is coming from. This is a trailer, after all, and we don’t know the context of the line and why it’s being delivered in this specific way. Hell, we don’t even know if this is a line in the movie, or if it’s just something for the trailer.
And to be fair to the film, the new glimpses we get of other scenes look alright. The collapse of the Cave of Wonders looks neat, Agrabah looks beautiful, Aladdin’s parade looks nice and colourful, and Jasmine looks cool – I dig the pink outfit. I’m a little confused why they changed her look so much, but if they’re doing it in an attempt to dress her more like a real Arabic princess from an unspecified era in history, then I’m all for it. I love the sparklies.
Oh shit, you’re right. There’s like a very small shot of Aladdin and Jasmine holding hands and you can see her wearing something teal.
It too is sparkly.
Oh, jeez, really?
There are also set photos of her in her Disney-looking costume…fuck me. I need to keep up with news more.
I guess they’re just giving her more than one outfit to wear. That makes sense.
But again, if this trailer, as an ad for the movie, is trying to convince me to go see it, it’s really not doing a good job.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend the 1992 animated film is perfect. I love it, and it holds a special place in my heart, and I know every single song and quite a bit of the dialogue, but it does have its problems. My question going into the live-action remake is: What are you going to do with it?
From what I’ve seen so far, outside of hiring a lot of non-white actors (yay, we don’t have to deal with a Gods of Egypt situation, so thanks Disney for meeting the bare minimum requirement for decency) I’m just not sure what they could do with or add to the story to adapt it in a new, exciting, and creative way.
I mentioned how every other Disney remake has really tried to do something new and transformative. Other than making the story “more grounded and realistic” in an attempt to be “mature”, I’m not sure what they’re going to do. To be fair to the film again, we didn’t know what Beauty and the Beast was going to do to change things until the film was released, so I’ll hold my tongue on the issue for now.
For all we know, they could bring in some of the canned ideas from the animated film, like Aladdin’s mother and his driving force to find the lamp and marry Jasmine isn’t just love-at-first-sight paired with a desire to escape poverty, but also an attempt to make his mother proud of him. That would be kind of nice, and if that tied into a wider narrative with Jasmine trying to make her father proud of her and have the pair bond over their shared parental troubles, then that might be an alright addition to the existing plot structure and a really good way to get the leads together romantically in an organic way.
Hell, considering there’s a new prince getting involved, there might be a team up between Aladdin and his direct rival to save the day, potentially ending with the other prince sacrificing himself to save Aladdin and Jasmine, despite him not particularly liking Aladdin, or Jafar using the prince for his evil deeds. Or Rajah might just show us his skivvies and call it a day.
Maybe the Iago/Razul character will be more of a foil to Aladdin and will be more of an active participant in his downfall.
Maybe they’ve come up with entirely new themes and morals for the story!
Pinkie and I will be seeing this movie, and despite this being very close to my heart, I will remove the rose-tinted glasses and remain as unbiased as possible while watching. Just like with Hellboy, I will give it a fair shake and wait for it to impress me.
Considering it’s Guy Ritchie, I’m sure we’ll see some interesting edits and creative action sequences and cool visuals, but it’s not like every film he makes is a gem or anything.
The fact and the matter are that I was kind of looking forward to this film, and now I’m not. I’m apathetic at best, cynical at worst. We’ll just have to wait and see if my skepticism’s deserved.
I hope it isn’t.
Yes, I am putting off Metal. Yes, I will get back to it.
I’m also working on some essays covering some more serious topics, but those won’t be ready for a while yet.
Pinkie and I have seen some movies recently that we still have to review, and we’ve become the happy (well…not so happy, to be honest) owners of some movies with rather…ah…prolific reputations. So…there’s something to look forward to.
Until next time!