Unlike some of the other live-action remakes Disney has made recently, which have been mostly inoffensive nostalgia-bait, Guy Ritchie’s take on Aladdin has had some issues. First, Disney had a hell of a time actually finding actors to star as Aladdin and Jasmine, followed by the surprising decision to create an entirely new character just so the studio could cast decidedly white guy Billy Magnussen, and then Disney admitted to darkening the skin of white extras on set because they had skills “that could not be readily found in the Asian community” near the studio where Aladdin was being filmed—which… was not a great look. Also, original Aladdin screenwriter Terry Rossio took time off from accusing Disney of ripping off his ideas in order to say that calling someone “anti-vax” is as offensive as calling someone the n-word (only he didn’t say “n-word”). That doesn’t really have anything to do with the new Aladdin, but it does come up when you, say, search for “Aladdin” on a site like The A.V. Club.
Now, Entertainment Weekly has shared the first preview images for Aladdin, and it’s not immediately clear whether or not any of that trouble was worth it. You’ll have to click that link to see all of it, but you can at least see Naomi Scott as Jasmine, Mena Massoud as Aladdain, and Will Smith as the Genie below:
For one thing, Will Smith isn’t blue here, but he has indicated that the Genie will be blue at some point in the movie (probably when he’s in his big impressive Genie form and not when he’s just hanging out and getting tricked into giving Aladdin free wishes). Also, Aladdin’s vest looks really thick for the desert climate of Agrabah, and the Genie’s whole hair situation is really something.
Elsewhere in the EW story, Smith teases the weird approach he brought to the character in hopes of doing something more than an homage to Robin Williams’ original, saying he specifically turned to his iconic 1990 acting roles (Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Independence Day, and Bad Boys are the ones referenced) for inspiration. A Disney executive even said Smith’s take is “part Fresh Prince, part Hitch.” That being said, Smith accurately points out that it should be relatively easy to set his Genie apart, because “there hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavor in Disney history.”
Aladdin will be out in May.