The Disney remake machine continues to power forward with Dumbo, The Lion King and Aladdin on the release slate for 2019 alone. While the company is incredibly liberal with the label, all three are widely regarded as being irrefutably classic movies, and scrutiny from fans has been, to put it mildly, intense. Since Disney began drip-feeding us Aladdin footage at the end of 2018, the conversation around the Guy Ritchie-helmed remake, in particular, has been skewing far more negatively than it has for Dumbo and The Lion King.
In general, criticism around these remakes has focussed on what gets lost in translation from the cel-shaded originals to their live-action/photorealistic CGI reimaginings. Things that we don’t question in 2D cartoons — like a giant blue demi-god — suddenly become very questionable when brought into the sharp reality of Will Smith with a goatee and no legs. As one of the most beloved Disney sidekick characters of all time, it stands to reason whoever was cast in the role would have a mountain the size of the Cave of Wonders to scale, regardless of how they look. And, just to prove this point, fans had a low-key freak-out last December when Disney released the first images of Will Smith in costume… but crucially missing Genie’s distinctive blue hue.
While he did sport a goatee and gold shackles around his wrists — the character’s other key visual elements — the more naturalistic approach perturbed an already skeptical fanbase. It wasn’t long before the Internet’s favorite fan artist,BossLogic reworked the Entertainment Weekly cover where Smith’s Genie made its debut, widening the actor’s eyes, straightening out the facial hair and applying the “correct” color to his face and body.
Smith took to social media to assure naysayers that his portrayal would, indeed, be cerulean, explaining that the non-blue one is merely the Genie’s human disguise. In a Facebook post, Smith even said that his performance is CGI for most of the film, while this assurance had actually already been included in the EW article that featured the photos: “The final version of Will Smith’s Genie in his blue floating lamp form isn’t quite finished.” But pictures speak louder than words, and the absence of the promised finished result in any of the photos caused an outpouring of upset online.
Finally, at this year’s Grammys, Disney brought out the blue goods with another short trailer. Rather than cutting out just before Mena Massoud’s Aladdin could release the Genie from his 10,000 years of imprisonment as the first did, this latest preview shows off the all-powerful wish-granter in all his azure glory.
Honestly the Will Smith genie feels like a spoiler for BIRD BOX because I finally understand what image would make them so fascinated but also want to kill themselves
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) February 11, 2019
Never has the phrase “be careful what you wish for” been more appropriate. This roasting of Smith’s character design comes on top of other complaints that the film’s other costumes and sets have an air of cheapness about them, while, performance-wise, Smith also has to contend with the comedic tour-de-force that was Robin Williams in the original casting. Only the unexpected “hotness” of the villainous Jafar has earned the film any kind of positive buzz. It seems that, out of all of upcoming Disney’s remakes, 2019’s Aladdin has the steepest uphill battle to win over both hardcore fans and casual viewers alike.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin stars Mena Massoud in the title role, with Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, Will Smith as the Genie, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, Navid Negahban as The Sultan, Nasim Pedrad as Dalia, Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders and Numan Acar as Hakim. The film arrives on May 24.