Monetizing nostalgia is fascinating as something that’s simply part and parcel of the film industry today. If a movie doesn’t have a sequel or a prequel or a full-on revival, what does that say about the staying power of an original from years gone by?
Frankly, viewing iconic productions through the lens of remake-ability alone is a dodgy concept when films should logically stand on their own merits. Yet this ploy to market ostensibly “renewed” wares to an existing audience genuinely works when these stories eventually bring something new to the table.
What we can see of Guy Ritchie‘s take on Disney’s Aladdin doesn’t reveal all too much on that front, so far. The first teaser for the film has dropped (a day after its poster reveal) and almost disappointingly, the short spot reveals nothing of its director’s signature punchy flair or crisp humor. Nevertheless, it certainly appears just as magical as its animated counterpart and could perhaps hint at a little more. Take a gander below.
Literally, some shots from the Aladdin teaser look like they could have been lifted right out of Ron Clements and John Musker‘s 1992 movie. The trailer is a perfect example of how easy it is to buy into nostalgia, or at least to witness how the concept encourages the benefit of the doubt.
Still, the clip gets points for already enlarging the scope of the story as we know it, potentially deepening the lore and enriching the tale ahead. There’s something creepy beneath this guise of familiarity. We are being lulled into a false sense of security in our rush to compare an old favorite to what could be a whole new beast (and that’s not an intentional pun).
A somber take on “Arabian Nights” starts off the trailer right. We’re introduced to the unforgiving desert, too. A seemingly unending stretch of smooth golden dunes that entertains only the most daring of travelers…
…But that shadow on the ground is probably Iago’s, right? Jafar’s talking bird? I’m not going to say that the illusion of solemnity is fully shattered already. We’re not privy to details about Iago’s ability to chat. Nonetheless, being reminded of the comic relief of that particular character hardly inspires the appropriate reaction.
The teaser gives us a far-off glance at what seems like the Sultan and Princess Jasmine’s extravagant abode, much less Taj Mahal-esque but certainly grand. Eventually, we’ll get to see what that kind of life’s like up close. For now, similar to Aladdin’s apparently improbable dreams of royalty, we’ll have to settle for gazing from afar.
In Ritchie’s remake, the Cave of Wonders doesn’t appear to be the same dissolvable and omnipresent gateway into a treasure trove. Rather, it comes across more like an actual entrance built into the side of an ancient rock formation.
A number of silhouettes approach the tiger-shaped mouth of this omnipotent realm as its gravelly voiceover muses about chosen ones; “the diamond in the rough.”
There he is! Sort of!
The teaser’s top priority is establishing the extravagance of setting. The many artifacts and riches abound in the Cave contribute to a sense of wonderment, and a spotlight glimmers atop the pedestal where a certain magical lamp sits, front and center.
Finally, we get the first real shot of our hero, captivated and determined on his quest for the lamp. Mena Massoud is decked out in the signature fez and vest outfit, although the colors are reversed when compared to the animated Aladdin’s garb. Minor details to take note of, I’m sure, but that’s all we can really glean from his portrayal for now as there is no other dynamic action in the scene from which to judge.
Overall, this first look at Ritchie’s most mainstream movie to date is promising, despite the fact that it adamantly keeps within Disney’s teaser trailer schtick for its live-action remakes. For instance, Cinderella banked its initial teaser entirely on the iconic glass slipper. Meanwhile, The Jungle Book did a better job of incorporating something darker and more layered to its early footage, but ensured a focus on familiar characters and imagery, as well.
Truthfully, it would have been cool to also catch a glimpse of Jasmine (Naomi Scott) or even a Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) silhouette in the Aladdin teaser. I don’t mind the studio holding out on revealing Will Smith‘s Genie and am glad that the random new character, the white Prince Anders (Billy Magnusson), remains under wraps.
Knowing myself, I’d go into Aladdin with an open heart and open mind. We’re not seeing much of the original animation’s a kooky mash-up of tongue-in-cheek references, but they may still find a way into the movie given how well such features fit in Ritchie’s specific style and oeuvre.
As it is, the Aladdin footage is an adequate if expected reveal of a protagonist who looks the part, as well as a world that’s bound to open up further. The movie means serious business. At the same time, Disney just wants to remind us yet again that it hasn’t forgotten its roots one bit.
Aladdin flies into cinemas on May 24, 2019.