Aladdin 2019 makes a number of changes to the original movie – from Jafar’s backstory to a romantic subplot for the Genie.
Aladdin 2019 has become a firm box office hit for Disney, and while it obviously has a major nostalgia factor, it also makes a number of changes to the characters and story. The original animated version, released in 1992, remains one of Disney’s best loved and most iconic animated classics, thanks mostly to Robin Williams turn as Genie, as well as the incredible songs, penned by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and the late Howard Ashman.
The live-action remake of Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Naomi Scott as Jasmine, Mena Massoud as Aladdin, and Will Smith as Genie, was met with trepidation, but Ritchie has managed to deliver a great family movie. In part, this is thanks to his ability to enhance and add to the original storyline, while still staying faithful to the original movie.
There are a number of fundamental changes to Aladdin, some of which make it a better movie, and some which don’t work at all. We’ve rounded the biggest changes up for you below.
Aladdin & Jasmine’s Meeting Is Different
In the original Aladdin, Jasmine is wandering the market in disguise when she takes an apple from a stall to give to some street children. The stallholder is about to chop off her hand for theft, when Aladdin intervenes, pretending she is his crazy sister. When the palace guards then capture Aladdin for theft, Jasmine reveals herself and demands he is released. He is then taken away anyway, for being alone with the princess. In Aladdin 2019, the pair meet in the same way, with Aladdin saving Jasmine from the stallholder, but their first meeting lasts a lot longer than in the animated version. They perform the song “One Jump Ahead” together, whereas it was a solo Aladdin song originally. Jasmine doesn’t reveal who she is, but instead allows Aladdin to believe she’s the princess’ handmaiden. Much more time is spent establishing a genuine connection between them both as opposed to the ‘love at first sight’ angle of the original.
Jasmine Has A New Story Arc, New Handmaiden, and New Song
While Princess Jasmine has been long idolized by small children across the globe, the character has never really had much substance to her until now. Originally, Jasmine was feisty and strong-willed, determined that she should be allowed to choose the person she maries, and longing to escape the confines of palace life, but she stopped short of being a proactive feminist. In Aladdin 2019, Jasmine has a stronger story arc. She is politically active and takes a great interest in the Sultan’s affairs, including Agrabah’s relations with neighboring countries. Jasmine is shown to be intelligent, determined, and strong, but that doesn’t stop her feeling trapped. Expected to marry, she repeatedly begs her father, the Sultan, to change the law so she can become Sultan instead of any future husband.
A new song, written by Pasek and Paul (Greatest Showman), “Speechless,” conveys Jasmine’s frustrations with the way the system favors men. Another new addition to Jasmine’s arc is the character of Dalia, her handmaiden (Nasim Pedrad). The depth of the relationship between the two women is evident, as is the mutual trust they share. Dalia’s inclusion in Aladdin 2019 doesn’t just benefit the character of Jasmine, though. She also impacts greatly on the Genie.
How Will Smith’s Genie Is Different
Will Smith took on the rather unenviable task of following in Robin Williams’ footsteps as Genie. It was never going to be an easy role to play, when so many hold Williams’ original turn in such high esteem, but Smith makes a pretty good job of it. There are moments when he’s playing Genie as Williams did, and these feel forced and wrong, but they’re pretty unavoidable. The songs “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” will always be synonymous with Williams, and there’s not much that Smith or Ritchie could do about that.
To counteract this, though, there are plenty of moments within Aladdin 2019 where Smith is given free reign to be himself, and those scenes are a total joy to watch. Smith is a gifted comedy actor, and it’s great that he’s allowed to shine. The Genie and Aladdin have a much more playful, fun relationship because of it, and their friendship feels much stronger. Another big change to Genie is that his wish to be free is much more specific: he wants to be human. In fact, he frequently transforms himself into a human while with Aladdin, and he loves it. He also, it turns out, loves Dalia, and the feeling is mutual. After Aladdin uses his final wish to set him free and make him into a human, Genie and Dalia make plans to marry, have children, and sail the world. This ending is arguable much more satisfactory for the Genie than in the original animated Aladdin.
Jafar’s Plan & History Is Changed
One of Disney’s best villains has always been Jafar – because he’s the absolute worst. In Aladdin 2019, though, he’s bad in an entirely different way. His motivation has changed; he’s far more like Aladdin gone wrong than a masterful dark villain, and his behavior is that of a petulant child most of the time. He wants to attack Agrabah’s neighbors, for no reason (it seems) other than Jasmine’s mom had lived there and the Sultan had promised their safety. Jafar still wants to marry Jasmine, but it’s clear that he despises her and merely wants to humiliate the Sultan, teaching Jasmine a lesson in how to be submissive along the way. Another change to the original story is that Jafar is given a backstory of having been a ‘street rat’ just like Aladdin. He is a pickpocket, and steals the lamp back from Aladdin by disguising himself and bumping into him in the market place.
Iago Is More Like A Real Parrot
As well as changes to the character of Jafar, his parrot sidekick, Iago, is a lot less interesting. Originally voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, Iago was hilariously irreverent, sarcastic, and in a permanent state of anger and annoyance. He especially loathed the Sultan, who called him Pretty Polly and fed him crackers. Iago had some of the best lines in the original Aladdin, but in Aladdin 2019 he’s reduced to just the occasional comment, and serves as little more than an observer for Jafar. We see him listening in on conversations between Aladdin and the Genie, and reporting back to his master, but the triumphant glee that Iago once had as he crowed about all he knew has gone. It’s perhaps one of Aladdin 2019’s biggest disappointments (along with Jafar), and turning him into a giant, monstrous bird to chase Aladdin and Jasmine in the final act just seems pointless and not at all terrifying.
Aladdin Is Prince Ali For Longer
Aladdin 2019 does a great job of expanding upon points in the story that happened far too quickly the first time around. Take Aladdin becoming Prince Ali, for example. That whole sequence is given much more screen time, and it works. Prince Ali’s arrival into Agrabah is as grand as it ever was, to the song “Prince Ali,” but we also see Aladdin and Genie (disguised as a human) meeting the Sultan and Jasmine for the first time. Rather than playing it cool as Aladdin does in the original movie, he is awkward, nervous, and totally thrown by Jasmine being in the room. He starts rambling about all the gifts he’s brought for the Sultan, including an array of jams. Genie stands by his side, quietly urging him to stop talking, but Aladdin carries on, eventually telling Jasmine he’s come to buy her, which he quickly takes back. The scene ends with Genie telling Aladdin, “In ten thousand years, I have never been that embarrassed.”
We also get to see Aladdin trying again to impress Jasmine at a ball. Genie tries to help, by magically enabling him to dance, and for a moment Jasmine seems pleased with her choice of dance partner. However, it all goes off the rails, with Genie getting carried away and Aladdin (as Prince Ali) performing ever more outlandish tricks and flips until Jasmine walks away. Aladdin decides to try a different tactic, and after taking Jasmine on a magic carpet ride (“A Whole New World”) she deduces his true identity. However, he tells her that he is really a prince and only disguises himself as a peasant to escape palace life. It leads to a big falling out between the Genie and Aladdin, which is only rectified when Genie rescues Aladdin from the bottom of the sea.
Aladdin 2019 Is A Story Told By Will Smith’s Human Genie
Finally, the story of Aladdin is bookended by Will Smith as a human, on a boat with Dalia and their children. He opens the movie with a tale about “Arabian nights,” which takes us into the market of Agrabah. At the end, we return to the boat, for Genie to close the tale. It’s a good touch to an overall great movie.
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