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Aladdin - Review

Water. The vast establishing shot that opens Guy Ritchie's live-action adaption of the Disney family classic. Very much the opposite of the searing, sandy deserts found in the original story of Aladdin. A lone boat, home to a family of four, features a sea-loving Will Smith as he tells the tale of a thief and a princess through the epic opening number 'Arabian Nights'.

The musical number works as a stepping stone to introduce Jafar and the Cave of Wonders to audiences, and as the music starts to fade out and the darkness dissipates, we meet the kind-hearted street rat known as Aladdin. With his trusty sidekick Abu by his side, Aladdin spots a beautiful girl (Princess Jasmine, of course) in trouble and comes to her aid: the meet cute between the film's titular couple.

Now I don't need to tell you how the story of Aladdin goes because I'm pretty sure that everybody watched the original film growing up. But this live-action remake definitely surpassed my initial expectations. With Disney's growing trend of adapting their past films from days gone by, I was worried about how much time and money they would focus into this movie. Especially considering Dumbo was released two months prior and The Lion King is due to be released within the next couple of months. Plus, Guy Ritchie's repertoire of rich, crime movies didn't exactly scream "Disney" when he was announced as director. The two areas of film are completely different however I think that Ritchie used his past experience to his advantage.

In the film's first ten minutes, audiences are immersively thrown into Aladdin's world as he is chased by Agrabah's Royal Guards. Mena Massoud's agility and strength is presented as he bounces wall-to-wall and wildly jumps from different rooftops. The camera works perfectly to keep up with the pace of the scene, and the use of slow motion shots during Jasmine and Aladdin's biggest escapades were really exciting to watch.

CGI was used very effectively: from the immeasurable landscape of Agrabah, to bringing Rajah and Iago to life on screen, it was obvious that the technical team had spent a lot of time making sure everything was perfect. And this also has to be said for the creative team. The colourful vibrancy of the Middle-Eastern culture was expressed through the gorgeous costumes and stunning set design, whether the scene was based in the Sultan's palace or on the busy streets. The energy and action of the film was certainly supported by these factors.

The cast, as well, were just superb. When anything involves Will Smith, you know that it's sure to be something special, but Smith really shines in this movie. He pays homage to Robin Williams with comedy and eccentricity however he still manages to make the role his own. This version of Aladdin definitely explores the human side of the Genie that we didn't get to see in the original. It's a nice twist and expands the character from simply being a mentor or guide to something with a bit more depth. Mena Massoud was the perfect choice for the titular character. He gets Aladdin's charm and wit just right - it's quite uncanny really. The character is still very much the same: a genuine guy, with good intentions, who loses his way when gifted with fortune and affluence. Nonetheless Massoud does a really great job of capturing the character's tenacity and kindness, as well as his awkwardness as he tries to navigate the ways of courtship and royalty.

I want to take a bit more time to discuss Naomi Scott. You might have seen Naomi in 2017's Power Rangers, or even the Disney Channel Original movie Lemonade Mouth where she first showcased her impressive vocals. Despite the criticism that came with her casting, I really think you couldn't have picked anyone better to play Princess Jasmine. The character has always been feisty and able to hold her own, which is definitely continued in this film. But in this version, Jasmine is a bit more multidimensional: she is consumed by wanderlust after being trapped in her palace for years, she has a desire and strength to rule over her own people, she just wants a say in how she can live her life. It's during the end of film's equilibrium that audiences are shown how the Princess is dismissed and shut down and it's more than relatable considering today's society. Her solo number 'Speechless' not only exemplifies Scott's incredible vocals but is a huge, empowering piece of music that conveys the character's turning point where she goes to "reclaim her own power". It's a moment that many women watching the movie can connect with, and it was one of favourite moments from the entire film.

Speaking of music, the soundtrack must be mentioned. Composed by American musical theatre composer Alan Menken (the original composer from the animated film), all tracks from the original picture are included yet they are much more impressive. Each song is much more orchestral and ambitious, with the help of La La Land's songwriting duo Pasek and Paul. It's advertised when the audience first hears Will Smith's versions of Arabian Nights (which I've had stuck in my head all day) and Friend Like Me. The film's most eye-opening number is Prince Ali, which featured over 1000 dancers and extras. Smith's hip-hop talent and energy is expressed in the reconstructed version of the track, and the visual aspect of the entire sequence is astonishing. There is so much going on, from 75 Golden Camels to 53 Purple Peacocks, the original scene is recreated in all of its glory. It will certainly go down in history as one of Disney's most jaw-dropping and enthusiastic musical numbers of all time.

Regardless of the fact that it adds nothing to the original movie, Aladdin is probably one of Disney's best live-action remakes currently, depending on how it all goes with Lion King in July. It's great fun, whether you're watching for the nostalgia of childhood or introducing a new generation to the story of Jasmine and Aladdin. With lively musical numbers, great moments of comedy and some grand action sequences, you are sure to be entertained. Well done Disney for (again) rehashing an iconic classic that works as a surefire way to make even more millions of profit.

You can watch Aladdin in cinemas everywhere from 22nd May

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