To this point, the year’s biggest film has been Disney’s Live Action remake of Beauty and the Beast. That will most likely change once Star Wars hits, but the point is that Disney has found a considerable cash cow in simply recycling old classics in updated, live-action fashion. People will jump at the chance to relive their favorite films on the big screen, and so follows a slate of remakes in the near future that includes: Dumbo, The Lion King (why?), and Aladdin. I’ll air my problems with The Lion King later. This post is for Aladdin, which I’m mostly looking forward to, with major hesitations all involving the cast. Set to be released in May of 2019, the live-action edition of Aladdin will be directed by Guy Ritchie, and star relative newcomers Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. Will Smith is headlining the film, taking on the most difficult replacement act, as Genie (originally voiced by Robin Williams). I’m going to leave the main actors alone. I don’t know them, and hopefully they’re great. I’d like to think the days of whitewashing are through, and credit to Disney for taking their time to find the right people for Aladdin and Jasmine. I’m not going to knock Will Smith either. No one is going to replace Robin Williams. Smith’s best bet is to push that version of Genie to the side, and create a completely different character. He still has the charm and charisma to pull it off. The main part of the cast are all question marks to me, but I am most skeptical about the addition of Billy Magnussen in a new role created specifically for the new film. He will play Prince Anders, a rival suitor seeking Princess Jasmine’s hand. Many hostile bloggers are upset at what they see as an unnecessary token role for a white person to fill in what would have been maybe the only Disney ever not to feature a white performer (I’d have to research, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of one Disney film that doesn’t have white characters). His casting, presented in click-bait form as it generally has been, does seem shady. Does Disney not trust the film to sell without some white mixed into the palette? I do think they’re probably nervous, but I’m going to play a rare role for me, and be Mr. Positive, and argue for why it will all be okay.
Mainly, I like that Aladdin seems to be veering away from the original. Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017) were huge hits, but they felt like shot for shot remakes, and they could never beat the originals. Just looking at the cast, I see no Iago. I see the addition of Billy Magnussen’s character Prince Anders, but I also see the addition of a character named Dalia played by an Iranian actress. So it seems like Guy Ritchie is fleshing out and expanding the story. I personally hope there are a number of creative differences in this adaptation.
Secondly, we have no idea how substantial Magnussen’s role will be. I vote we wait and see how big of role he plays before we decide how upset we are. If he’s in it 5 minutes, who cares?