Disney’s latest live-action movie, Aladdin, is like entering a magical cave filled with the latest digital treasures. Overall, it’s a magic lamp that grants your wish to enjoy a timeless classic in a whole new world cinematic finish.
The movie was shot on a massive set at Longcross Studios and Aborfield Studios in the UK and on the stunning desert vistas of Wadi Rum and Wadi Disi in Jordan.
As among the first to watch the movie in a special advanced screening, we were immediately caught in a magical spell as Aladdin begins with an entrancing sequence that sweets through the port city of Agrabah.
This live-action Disney treat then went to keep the spell working with its intricate set and costume designs and seamless, state-of-the-art computer generated imagery (CGI).
Aladdin revolves around the star-crossed romance of the charming street rat, Aladdin, and the courageous, Princess Jasmine, and follows the exciting events after Aladdin suddenly summons the all-powerful and lovable Genie.
While the film remains faithful to the original plot, it’s brave enough to take a few liberties that enrich the story. At the helm of refining the narrative story were screenplay writer John August and director Guy Ritchie. With more depth and dimension to the film’s leads and a set of fresh characters, audiences were given new perspectives and insights on the narrative.
In the original version, the focus of the film is Aladdin’s journey of self-discovery. For the live-action retelling, Princess Jasmine also finds her voice. Similar to the animated film, she yearns for her freedom, but in her new story arc, she also yearns for the freedom of her people with aspirations of becoming the sultan of Agrabah. Both stuck in circumstance and hoping for greater things, their love story is just as much a coming-of-age story for Aladdin and Jasmine as they eventually embrace who they truly are.
All this ties- in together with amazing performances from Mena Massoud who captures Aladdin’s self-deprecating charm, Naomi Scott who owns her role as the modern Princess Jasmine, Nasim Pedrad who nails the comedic naivete of Dalia, and Will Smith’s stand-out, hilarious portrayal of Genie. The two young lovers have an undeniable chemistry that would make fans swoon while the rest of the cast share a natural dynamic that plays out incredibly well.
The animated film’s original award-winning composer, Alan Menken, returned to work on the project with renowned composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul to create new arrangements that incorporated pop elements, adjusting to the vocal styles of Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Will Smith.
The result was a familiar sound with contemporary flourishes. Some songs had a change in tempo, others welcomed new influences and instruments – but each song was a gem that still carried the magic of the original soundtrack. There were also newly-written materials for the soundtrack, including a revamped ‘Arabian Nights’ for the film’s opening scene and another moving reprise of ‘One Jump Ahead’. The inspiring story of Princess Jasmine also came with an empowering song, ‘Speechless’, which Naomi Scott pulls off in a pivotal scene in the movie.
The film features spectacular dance and song numbers, including ‘One Jump Ahead’ with parkour scenes in the alleys and roofs of Agrabah and ‘Friend Like Me’ which showcased not just Genie’s singing chops but also Aladdin’s break-dance moves. Easily one of the highlights of the film was the show-stopping and carnival-like performance of ‘Prince Ali’ which features 250 dancers and 200 extras and a 30-foot high camel made of 37,000 flower heads. All these coming together gave the film an extravagance that surpassed the animated film.