Before I get into the Will Smith of it all, I would like to start off with the other glaring red flags that caught my eye while watching the trailer three and a half times.
Over a year ago I posted a video essay on my YouTube channel (see below) to discuss the potential problems this film will face from casting, script, white washing, a history of misrepresenting Arabs. I’m afraid that the main fear I had, which I expressed in the video, reared its stupid predictable head in the trailer of the movie.
I expressed that Director Guy Ritchie and screenwriter X had a huge responsibility on their hands to not only please a massive fan base that goes beyond the whole ‘I’m an Arab please represent me fairly’ but they also have an opportunity to really make something amazing which potentially can connect with audiences of all backgrounds and races. I mean how can you get the story of a street rat trying to make it in the world but then learns that true love and being honest is more important than material wealth – HOW? I’ll tell you how:
I got video game, kiddie movie, over CGI vibes watching the trailer. The opening gave me major Harry Potter vibes. I’m not sure if that was because of the colour scheme and dark opening or if it was the music (which I knew is the original music from the animated Disney film but the full orchestra gave it an HP vibe).
Some of the scenes looked too animated in a weird and obvious way. The scene, which I assume, is the big musical number of Prince Ali song (great musical bit in the Disney animated version) looked empty, too bright and awkward while another scene with Aladdin in the cave of wonder looked like an overcrowded video game.
Guy Ritchie Expectations
No one was more excited than I was when it was announced that Guy Ritchie was directing this film. I really thought that he would (and who knows he might surprise us all in the actual film) add a very gritty, Guy Ritchie, really dark element to how the film would look and feel. But the only feelings I got from the trailer was that it was a generic Bollywood wanna be mish mash of a film.
I got an actual fright when I heard Jaffar’s voice in the first few seconds of the trailer. Why did he sound so… high? Morrocan / Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari who was cast for the role looked more sinster in his bio profile pic on IMDB than in the short clip we saw of him in the trailer.
The world was pleased when it was announced that most of the main characters were Arab actors – bar Naomi Scott. I understand from a commercial point of view that a big A list actor is needed to be cast to really bring people flocking to see the film. Which is why not bound to be a specific race, the character of the Genie was the A list casting needed.
Will Smith would have been the perfect person to play the Genie twenty-years ago. I’m not being an asshole but it’s true. Will Smith has been trying to position himself as a serious actor over the last decade or so and many people today don’t see him as the comedian he once was. We get it he was funny in Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Bad Boys – but like I don’t want to see the Fresh Prince painted blue which is what I ended up seeing in the trailer.
Jamie Fox on the other hand would have made more sense. Kevin Hart even. Seth Rogan would have been brilliant too. If you really wanted to make people’s heads explode in a good way, they could have cast Rebel Wilson as the Genie.
The 1992 animated Disney film had its own issues of course. But those issues centred mainly around how Arabs were perceived and had nothing to do with casting and aesthetics of the film.
Like I mentioned earlier, it might be a little premature of us to be judging the whole film from this trailer. But to date, I’ve never experienced watching a trailer that didn’t excite me to be pleasantly surprised to find a masterpiece waiting for me in the cinema. Screw it, I don’t even want a masterpiece of a film when it comes to Aladdin. I just want something entertaining for the right reasons that won’t end up being a meme on Twitter.