This past week, Disney released their latest trailer for their live-action remake of Aladdin. While there are still detractors, overall the response was more favorable compared to the previous commentary:
Still, the Internet is full of backlash against many of these Disney remakes, and there’s a general “hate bandwagon” whenever one is so much as announced (let alone receives a teaser or trailer). The complaints usually include comments about the special effects, preferring the original cast, or just plain being sick of remakes.
I want to know – am I in the minority that likes these Disney live-action remakes?
I’m not saying they’re perfect or that I don’t have some complaints, but overall these films have decent casts and directors, are fun experiences, and usually do well at the box office. So, why can’t we enjoy them for what they are instead of picking apart every subjective flaw as if it’s a personal offense?
I’ll start with the most common demand in that people prefer the original cast. I can understand that concept as we’re attached to performances from our youth, especially from artists of exceptional talent.
A lot of complaints about Aladdin surround the replacement of Robin Williams with Will Smith.
Williams was a comedic genius and actor with no rival, there’s no doubt, but Smith isn’t even remotely a bad actor. I feel like he’s getting a lot of hate just because of some box office bombs, Hollywood gossip, and trying to compare a great performer to an epic one; so, people nitpick things like not being blue (or being too blue) instead of just accepting a history of good work.
Nobody will fill Robin Williams’ shoes, and I don’t think Will Smith is trying to replace him or our memories. He’s just doing his version of the Genie, and given his past success, I’m sure he’ll do fine.
Plenty of actors have successfully created a new, exciting take on previous actors’ roles, from The Fly to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Cape Fear to Ocean’s Eleven. When the previous cast is still around, they often show support for their successors, as Robert Englund did for Jackie Earle Haley; despite the failure of that remake, Haley’s Freddy Krueger was still top-notch and a creepy approach to the character.
You don’t need the original cast for a remake to be enjoyable, nor do you need to hate on them just because they aren’t those people. Judge them on who they are and whether they pull the role off rather than nitpicking and loathing because of your memories and (often high) expectations.
As for the choice to make remakes whatsoever, and how sick people are of them, I sometimes wonder if people truly know the history of the film industry. Did you know that there have been over 600 remakes stretching back to the earliest one in 1904?
Remakes are nothing new and were often done for a variety of reasons, from changes in technology to translations for different audiences. Whether a movie is “good” or “bad” is dependent on the film, not on whether it’s a remake.
Many favorite or award-winning movies today people either forgot or never knew, are remakes. The Maltese Falcon, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Scarface were all recreations of earlier films; more common knowledge is that many westerns, like A Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven, were American versions of Kurosawa films.
If remakes are nothing new and might produce films on par (if not better) than the original, then why so much hate for Disney remakes? It’s entirely possible that the remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book may one day be considered (objectively) equal to the original animated films.
A final complaint is similarity between some remakes, especially the Disney ones. While Maleficent took a different view of its predecessor and Alice in Wonderland was essentially a sequel, Beauty and the Beast was almost beat-for-beat the same movie.
To be fair, though, this isn’t a bad thing, because while the general story and songs may be similar, the rest of the movie isn’t. Beauty and the Beast had enough differences to make it stand alone, and I believe upcoming films will be the same.
Looking at Broadway adaptations, they change aspects but maintain iconic songs or scenes because that’s what we love about those movies. This precise copy doesn’t make them any less enjoyable, so why would the live-action adaptations be any different?
I look at the American Grudge series, directed by the same person as the Japanese original and using many of the same shots and sequences; I love both and, despite their extreme similarity, they still maintain unique identities or flavors. The same holds for Let Me In and Let the Right One In or the two versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Similarity, even significant parallels, doesn’t make a remake “bad” in any sense, and a Disney live-action adaptation still stands apart no matter how close it is to the animated original.
Now, one complaint I’ll give is what movies are chosen for a remake. While movies like Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book are bringing films half-a-century old into the modern audience, the other choices are questionable.
I’m not a fan of all the “Disney Renaissance” films, which are all less than 30 years old, they’ve chosen as remakes. I see little point in doing live-action versions of Beauty and the Beast (or the upcoming Aladdin and The Lion King); these films were in the theater when Millennials were children, and even kids today have likely grown up with them on DVD/Blu-Ray or television.
If a movie adds something new, however, rather than just recreating it, then a remake might still be plausible. The most prominent examples, again, can be found on Broadway, where remakes of Disney films often add new songs, scenes, and even changes in the story.
So, while I criticize their choice to remake films from the 1990s (rather than the 1960s), I accept that the film itself might be just as enjoyable as its predecessor.
Will I see Aladdin or other remakes? Probably. Will I enjoy them? It’s been inconsistent, but overall, I’ve enjoyed more than I disliked.
What I won’t do is join this automatic, haterade bandwagon, disavowing all remakes (especially Disney ones) as automatically horrible. Instead, the kid in me embraces the possibilities it might be good, especially since I recognize that no similarity will make these the exact same film.
All too often we look back on our youth through rose-tinted glasses, often lauding movies that were questionable while being overly-critical of anything that dares tread on our memories. I’ve already talked about how that’s a lousy way to judge fandoms, and the same holds for Disney.
Who else is with me in giving Disney live-action remakes a chance and letting them shine (or stink) on their own merits, rather than holding them to the light of the animated films?