Saturday, June 1, 2019

D&M Aladdin Review: From Hollywood to Bollywood

I've been in theater two days ago to watch Aladdin and i have to say that i quite liked it a lot. I almost hated the last Avengers but i liked very much this one. Of course a totally different story and kind of movie but i liked it mainly because the two characters ( Aladdin and Jasmine ) are perfectly chosen, they’re fully “in” the role they are playing, so they're believable, and in addition they’re also very sympathetic, humanly speaking, no ego here.

Like many, i had some doubts on Will Smith as the Genie and finally i think he’s okay and even a good choice, mostly because he plays a character who is a kind of clown and that’s what Will Smith does the best ( generally, the scenes where he is often bad - or let's say not credible - it’s in the emotional scenes ). But here he’s okay, it's a perfect character for him, so even if he's not Robin Williams, i think he do the job.

I still think that the actor playing Jafar is too young but he’s playing well and may be it was not possible to have in real life a character as stylized as Jafar was in the animated film. The funny thing, however, is that almost none of the characters look really Arabs. Not physically speaking, as the actors playing Aladdin and Jasmine physically look quite Arabs, but from the "inside" they have absolutely nothing Arab. Same for most of the others actors or extras, even if their costume have an Arab style ( rather in the 1001 nights fairy tale style ). Thanks God, they didn't asked them to behave in a caricatural Arab way, at the exception of a scene at the beginning with a market merchant, a scene by the way which starts the chase of Aladdin by the guards. Sometime Aladdin reminded me old classics like Michael Powell's legendary Thief of Bagdad ( but The Thief of Bagdad is superior, a wonder that you must see if you never did ) where everything was filmed in studios at Hollywood with all actors and extras dressed like Arabs but obviously no one was really Arab. So let's say it's the vision of an Arabian world revisited by Hollywood.

Actually the movie looks more in direction of Bollywood, whether by the colors or some of the scenes ( and anyone not convinced must stay till the end of Aladdin and watch the credits scene which is totally a Bollywood ballet ). It’s quite obvious that Disney try to also seduce the Indian spectators, probably even more than the ones from Middle-East countries, and i’m curious to see what will be the box office of Aladdin in India, if it is released there.

And of course there is all the great Aladdin songs that we all love which help to enjoy the movie. Another of my favourite in Disney's animated film were the colors, and here they succeeded to recreate them, for the most, and especially in the Cave of Wonders sequence. Of course all CGI effects ( Abu, Iago, Rajah the tiger, parade elephants, AND the flying carpet ) are perfectly executed so you never think that the animals are not really real.

If i had to find something that i didn't liked, i would say the photography of some scenes. As a good friend of mine - one of the best film editor in the world - once told me "the problem with the Americans is that they light everything". And some scenes of Aladdin would have been better with a lighting a bit more subtle, but for the most it's okay. Let's say they just won't get the "Best Photography" Academy Award for Aladdin even if i enjoyed the photography of the Cave of Wonders sequence, as said above.

The outdoor scenes of the first half of Aladdin were filmed in Jordan Wadi Rum, a gorgeous place that i know well as i've been there and where David Lean had filmed some of the scenes of Lawrence of Arabia. But they've been smart enough to don't use in Aladdin the same - and very known - Wadi Rum locations that David Lean had used for "Lawrence". One of the film quality is also to don't try to take itself too seriously. It's both a tale, a fantasy, and a musical, everyone knows it, starting by the crew and director Guy Ritchie, and for this reason Aladdin is a very enjoyable movie to watch. Go out and watch it, you should like it!

Picture and video: copyright Disney

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