WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ALADDIN AHEAD
Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin has put its own spin on the 1993 classic for a more modern audience. It’s no easy task as the original is one of Disney’s most beloved properties. So it’s easy to understand why so much scrutiny would be placed on the movie, especially in the wake of the success of The Jungle Book remake.
For the most part, Ritchie honors the lore of old while cleverly updating certain elements of the franchise. That said, while many thought Will Smith’s Genie would have been an issue, it’s actually Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who turns out to be the biggest problem in the movie and we don’t mean just by posing problems for Aladdin and Jasmine’s character.
Were There Any Issues With Genie?
When the first trailer dropped, fans voiced concerns over Smith’s CGI portrayal of the character, criticizing everything from his blue coloration to his human form to his style not fitting what Robin Williams did over two decades ago and way more. While this criticism was inevitable, Disney’s Genie from the live action remake of Aladdin doesn’t pose any problems.
While no one can ever replace Robin Williams, Smith adds his own brand of humor to the role and makes it distinctly his. His style appealed to the crowd for sure who loved his hilarious demeanor in movies like Men in Black. The problem actually lies with Jafar.
For someone who’s supposed to be so intimidating and a major pillar of the story, Kenzari’s depiction comes off like an afterthought.
What Are The Issues With Jafar?
Viewers of the original Aladdin animated movie will know that there Jafar had a very commanding presence, especially when it came to Princess Jasmine. He was secretly monitoring her to ensure she doesn’t help break his grip on the Sultan.
Now, Ritchie does well to map the vizier’s brainwashing of the Sultan, as well as his rivalry with Aladdin, but most of the film hinges on Jasmine’s aspirations as ruler outside of her rivalry with Jafar. But we don’t really get a lot of interactions between him and her which is disappointing as they’re both going after the same thing here.
Jasmine wants to rule to better society, while Jafar wants to turn the kingdom of Agrabah into a war- driven empire. Jasmine’s arc especially when you throw Aladdin into the mix, takes up most of the time.
It’s something which was expected of Jafar, still he should have contributed more as Ritchie tries to take leadership direction with him off the cuff. Instead, he loses the lamp at the start and shows back up midway and then in intervals, trying to piece together Aladdin and the Genie’s deception.
When he eventually recovers the lamp for himself, wresting power from the Sultan, it’s hard to connect with why he wants to marry Jasmine and control her life, as they don’t really have any established relationship bar a few verbal barbs here and there.
Apart from his misogynistic mantra of how “women should be seen, not heard,” their dynamic comes to nothing. It’s disappointing, as the movie drastically shifts to Jafar being a major focal point. But it didn’t really flesh him and Jasmine at almost every point prior.
In their brief scenes, they do have great chemistry, which ultimately is a stark reminder Jafar should have gotten more screen time.
As a result of this, Aladdin lacks a sinister air from him or Iago, and rather than being this emperor-esque villain like a Palapatine or Doctor Doom, Jafar comes off more like a royal thug than a usurper and tyrant trying to take the throne.