“Mulan” Finally Makes Disney Live-Action Remakes Worth It.

Far and away the best of a slew of recent live-action remakes of animated Disney classics, Mulan blends the fantastical whimsy and stylized beauty of the 1998 film with the epic, somber maturity of the ancient Chinese ballad of Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei), finding its balance in a delicate sweet spot that it has difficulty maintaining the whole way through – but it manages, thanks to Niki Caro’s direction and an extraordinary ensemble cast: and in several instances it doesn’t just stay on par with 1998’s Mulan, but dares to soar above and beyond the constraints from which other live-action remakes have suffered. In only a few places does this version of the story falter or fall behind its predecessor.

Mulan
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Nostalgia (and the ways in which it can be exploited for money) has been both the reason why these live-action remakes continue to be made, and also why they often feel watered-down and uninteresting next to their animated counterparts. Afraid to change too much of the “original” stories (I put original in quotes because most of Disney’s classic fairytales are just that; adaptations of far older fairytales), the directors of these remakes choose to simply rearrange plot points inoffensively, and/or bloat the films’ runtimes with filler material: exposition, explanations and lengthy justifications for plot holes in the animated films, and new musical numbers that (with a few exceptions) feel like lackluster imitations of the real thing: though that last problem is made less noticeable when even the live-action recreations of the original songs are usually lackluster imitations (looking at you, the entire soundtrack of 2019’s The Lion King). Mulan, however, never suffers from these problems, because director Niki Caro has made the bold and commendable decision not to lean on nostalgia so heavily, but instead to weave the Chinese source material and the Disney animated film into one beautiful amalgamation of the two that feels like the truest version of the story yet. This decision necessitates removing entire sections of the animated film. Several major characters have been cut out entirely. The animal sidekicks and their hijinks are absent. The songs have been dropped. And most importantly, the tone of the story has changed entirely: Mulan was always one of the funniest, zaniest Disney movies, but this version feels more like an accessible, family-friendly tribute to the wuxia genre’s greatest hits, particularly Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In retrospect it’s obvious that, while the animated Mulan remains my personal favorite version of the story and my favorite Disney animated movie, this is how the legend of Mulan deserved to be told all along: as a war film with dark, adult themes, masterfully choreographed action scenes, and beautiful, luxurious imagery.

As for Mulan herself, the woman who disguised herself as a male soldier to take her father’s place in battle is a national heroine in China, and it’s no secret that Chinese audiences never liked how she was written in the animated film. This time around, Liu Yifei embodies a quieter, more reserved version of the character, who is hiding her inner power from herself and her family. But the key aspects of Mulan’s personality have not been changed: she is still a strong-willed woman endeavoring to carve out a place for herself in a world dominated by an unwavering patriarchy. If anything, these aspects have only been emphasized through the way the story has changed.

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Gong Li’s character, the mysterious and absolutely stunning sorceress Xianniang, balances out Mulan’s storyline with her own sad, cautionary tale. Like Mulan, she is a woman with aspirations and ambitions, but unlike Mulan, she has already fully embraced herself and her truth before the story opens; and it is for that reason that she now finds herself an unwanted outcast on the fringe of society, reviled even by her allies, who feels compelled to try and warn Mulan of the dangers she will face if she ever tries to upset the “natural” order of things. Her complex relationship with Mulan forms the film’s emotional core, and, side-note, has already sparked substantial interest from members of the LGBTQ+ community who have pointed out that, in the original ballad, the character of Xianniang is Mulan’s best friend and maybe love interest. There’s hints of that chemistry in their interactions here, although Mulan has a more explicitly romantic relationship (in fact, too explicit for some Chinese audiences) with a new male character named Honghui (Yoson An), a soldier in her regiment.

Throughout the film, a great deal of the plot revolves around Mulan trying to unlock her qi, an internal life-force that can give her gravity-defying acrobatic and martial arts skills, if only she can learn to control it. Xianniang is already in touch with her own qi, though she has been using it for evil for many years. It is this qi which allows both women to shine most brilliantly in their numerous action scenes, which – thankfully – have not all been revealed in the trailers. Xianniang, in particular, has a lot of tricks and surprises up her long, flowing silk sleeves (which themselves double as weapons designed for quick and easy strangulation of all enemies within about a ten-foot radius).

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The animated Mulan had numerous story issues, but none was bigger than the problem with its villain, the Hun leader Shan Yu: who was definitely one of Disney’s most terrifying and threatening villains, but maybe not one of the studio’s most well-written or dynamic. That problem has been solved. The duo of Rouran warlord Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and Xianniang, and the bond of mutual distrust between the two is very well-written. Bori Khan isn’t quite as menacing as his animated counterpart, but he has a much cooler look, a much more personal motive, and a much more compelling performance. Although in the trailers you’ve seen him and Xianniang working together, the movie establishes early on that their pairing is necessary for both to achieve victory, but is by no means motivated by any strong affection for the other. I absolutely love characters who have separate needs and wants, so this development worked for me.

There are several other standouts in the cast who make so much of their roles that they’ve instantly surpassed the animated versions of their characters. Mulan’s father, war veteran Hua Tzo (Tzi Ma), has a much larger role to play in the story, and his character’s kindness and genuine love and respect for his daughters made me very happy to see: I particularly enjoyed watching his internal conflict play out, as he tried to reconcile Mulan’s unconventional dreams with the more strict, uptight wishes of his community and culture. The village matchmaker, no longer a grotesque caricature, has a slightly expanded role and even gets a moment of payoff to her character arc that I never knew she needed. And The Emperor (Jet Li), while no longer charming or sassy, is again less of a caricature and more of an actual character, who even gets to participate in the third act battle. I did miss the antics of the Hua family’s matriarch, Grandmother Fa, but I never once found myself bemoaning the loss of the diminutive dragon Mushu or the lucky Cricket Cri-Kee (oddly, the lucky cricket does show up in a way, but not how you might expect). Mulan has gained a new animal guardian: a majestic Phoenix, which follows her on her journey. It’s not a very talkative bird, but it is very pretty to look at, and it feels much more appropriate with the tone of this movie.

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There are only two major instances where the 2020 film stumbles in comparison to the 1998 film. Neither one is a spoiler (unless you don’t know anything about the animated Mulan), so I can share both. The first is the iconic scene where Mulan dons her disguise and flees her home to join the army: in the animated film, this scene is set to a pounding, exhilarating piece of music, and is loaded with striking, memorable imagery: the rain and the lightning making bold silhouettes, the reflective sword-blade slicing Mulan’s hair, Mulan’s father stumbling in the mud and the bejeweled comb flying from his hand. In this version, it’s all over in a matter of moments, and lacks all of that potent symbolism. In fact, many of the iconic shots and symbols of the animated movie are gone completely; however, in most instances they have been replaced by visual cues that are almost as compelling. To name a few: a sprig of flower blossoms discreetly hiding Mulan from view as she bathes in a lake; droplets of blood falling ominously from one of Xianniang’s wounded claws during a fight; a lone soldier descending an unbelievably long flight of stairs in the Imperial City; and a number of extraordinary uses of fabric, such as Mulan twirling in purple silk, a black scarf untwisting around Bori Khan’s face and being caught in a desert wind, Xianniang’s deadly sleeves swirling heavily through the smoke of battle. None of them, however, match the power of a dead girl’s doll resting in the snow, or a flower blooming in adversity.

The second misstep is the pacing. This is a movie that needed to be much longer than it ended up being. The first thirty minutes fly along far too quickly, barely giving us any time to indulge in the opulent Hua family household or explore the dynamic of their peaceful village before we’re whisked off to war. Throughout the film, this continues to be a problem: the entire story feels rushed right up until the third act. A large part of why that is has to do with the lack of songs, because it’s important to remember that in the animated film, songs don’t just act as cheerful interludes between plot points – they literally are plot points. And if you’re going to remove them entirely, you can’t just leave blank spaces where they used to be: you need to do the work to replace them. This is done most effectively with You’ll Bring Honor To Us All, which is effectively supplanted with nuanced dialogue and a sprinkling of exposition that doesn’t feel heavy-handed or forced. But nowhere is it more badly handled than with A Girl Worth Fighting For: without that song, it’s impossible for the film to effectively recreate that shocking transition from the animated film where the untested Imperial army suddenly, unexpectedly, runs into the site of a brutal massacre. And without Reflection, we never get to fully understand Mulan’s motivations from her own point of view – and because we spend hardly any time in her village, that scene isn’t replaced by anything, so she sets out to war before we’ve even had time to understand why. Earlier in this review I criticized the remakes that bloat the story with filler material: but I’m not going to let this one off the hook because it does the opposite and subtracts important story beats without putting anything in their place.

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But even with what feels like so little time, Mulan still captivates the heart and captures the eyes’ undivided attention, and it left me feeling satisfied – and wanting more. Sign me up for the next movie! Even though this remake doesn’t surpass the animated movie, it’s the first Disney live-action remake that feels justified: as if it’s actually taking steps toward trying out new things and making exciting creative choices…not all of which pay off entirely, but all of which feel intentional.

Rating: 8.5/10

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“Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” Non-Spoiler Review!

The eagerly-anticipated sequel to 2014’s blockbuster Maleficent has a slow-paced, sluggish story that rarely, if ever, matches the splendor of beautiful visuals bursting in rainbow hues on the screen. Having strayed so far from the original fairytale that the occasional name-drops of “Sleeping Beauty” are actually jarring, Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil lacks a clear narrative purpose, but makes up for that with stunning beauty, fabulous world building, and the power of Angelina Jolie’s knife-edged cheekbones.

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Never underestimate Jolie’s ability to carry a scene, or even an entire movie, with the sheer force of her presence alone. She commands any scene she walks (or flies) into, and her physicality conveys the depths of her emotions far better than any of the rather poorly-written dialogue she is given. She’s still not really the Maleficent that most Disney fans are familiar with, and she’s never likely to be, except in those behind the scenes photos and videos that somehow give off more classic Mal vibes than anything in the actual movie: but what we get from Jolie is just as good – a raven-dark persona with a heart of gold, wielding height, severity, and an impressive wardrobe. In short, she’s the witch-mood, without actually being a witch. Jolie is only rarely able to make much use of the CGI wings her character is burdened with, but does achieve some form of composure when she’s in flight or descending with the force of a small helicopter (on the other hand, her “hovering” scenes leave much to be desired). Nonetheless, she’s still able to do more with them than her co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who fights a losing battle with the wings of his troubled Dark Fae character, Conall, for most of the movie. While it’s Conall who carries Maleficent to safety early in the film’s run-time, it’s Maleficent who returns the favor and carries the entire movie in her clawed grip, though she has so little competition until Michelle Pfeiffer’s Ingrith heats up the forges of war, that it’s hardly a surprise.

In the first half of the movie (the weaker half), the script leans heavily on the “romance” between Elle Fanning’s Aurora and Prince Phillip of Ulsted (Harris Dickinson), two of the most boring and frustratingly naive people to ever step foot in a Disney movie. Fanning has her moments, but the role is so underwritten in this movie that she doesn’t get much time to do anything in particular: almost at once, she is forced to neglect her only duties as Queen of the Moors when Phillip proposes to her, and so we never get to see her develop a close relationship with her subjects – as the leader of an entire nation, she fails spectacularly, attempting to have peace for peace’s sake, without considering any of the subtleties involved with aligning oneself with a foreign and possibly hostile power. As for Phillip, he shows up every so often in a loose-fitting shirt to stare dreamily into the camera, as Disney princes so often do: his only concern in the movie is Aurora’s safety, and he too is thwarted so many times, and so dramatically, that he’s an almost laughably pathetic addition to the cast. There is no chemistry whatsoever between the two, who spend almost every scene together talking wistfully about fairy politics – hardly romantic material.

Then, Ingrith gracefully steps onscreen, haughty, cool, calculating and formidable in a pair of diamond-encrusted high heels and a pearlescent gown, and for one brief, shining moment in the faux Camelot constructed for the film, the violent, power-hungry Queen appears to be one of Disney’s best villains in recent history. She handles a loaded crossbow with ease and assurance, goes through extensive costume-changes that showcase her wealth and luxury, keeps a collection of creepy mannequins, and is accompanied by a black cat: a more classic formula for a villain could not be imagined. But it’s the execution of Ingrith’s power-play that causes things to fall apart: while the heartless queen (speaking of heartless, I give it a couple of years before Ingrith shows up in a new iteration of the Kingdom Hearts Disney video game franchise) should have been an easy parallel to the caring mother that is Maleficent, the movie largely misses the mark with Ingrith, never quite using her (admittedly vicious) ambition to the full potential, never quite exploring the depths of her hatred for fairy-kind. She nearly gets there! She has a striking visual style, looking for all the world like the White Queen off a chess-board of death, and an intricate plan to establish total control of the fairy realm. She is certainly an active character, driving much of the plot, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty with the blood (or magical dust) of innocents – and yet the film establishes her as so aloof, so high and mighty, that she never actually seems involved in the action she’s causing: not until she’s threatened, and in a place of weakness: and, well, who wants that? She could have made for an incredibly fun villain, one operating from the topmost pinnacle of the impossible heights of her CGI cathedral – but to achieve that, she would need effective servants, loyal to her cause. And the only one who fits the bill is her henchwoman Gerda (Jenn Murray), who is in absentia during the third act due to a sudden fit of musical ecstasy that sees her transform into a crazed, sadistic prodigy of Mozart. The scene in which this happens is one of the most memorable in the entire film, just for the absolute craziness of the scenario, but it does rather undermine Ingrith’s own control over the hearts of her servants (the rest of whom might betray her at the drop of a hat).

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But craziness is what keeps Mistress Of Evil aloft for as long as it does, right up until a predictably average ending. Whether we’re watching Gerda tickle the ivories and take down waves of innocent fairies (there’s a surprising amount of death in this movie!), or witnessing the rituals of the Dark Fae with their vast, multi-colored wings and distinctly unique cultures, there’s always something to look at – occasionally so many things at once, such as when Maleficent first soars through the realm of the Dark Fae – that it’s hard for one’s eyes to focus, there’s just so much. In terms of visual spectacle, the film outdoes itself time and time again, culminating in a final battle that is actually surprisingly engaging and emotional, and sees humanity pitted against the Dark Fae in a war for peace.

There’s a lot of stuff going on in Mistress Of Evil, and thus a lot of themes and messages that the story tries to get across, with varying degrees of success. One line of dialogue delivered at the end of the movie attempts to sum everything up by saying that “we’re not defined by where we’re from, but by whom we love”. But in my opinion, no dialogue from the imaginations of scriptwriters Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue can achieve what is already being said countless times throughout the movie, without a single word spoken: that the entire story is focused on the mother/daughter relationship between Maleficent and Aurora. War rages around them, and this time between them, they are parted and reunited, but they endure. And the vividness with which their relationship is realized is a stark contrast to the flimsy connection between Ingrith and her son, which is nothing more than a shapeless concept that goes nowhere: as I previously noted, there was plenty of potential for a parallel there, but the film loses its one and only chance to demonstrate this parallel by not having Ingrith ever try to kill her son or even hinder his actions very effectively, despite how many chances she gets, and how much motivation she would have for doing so: yet it seems like such an obvious choice, in light of what else happens in the movie, that I can’t imagine that it was never discussed.

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One of the most interesting elements of the entire Maleficent franchise is its focus on femininity, and a different kind of strong female character than is usually seen in modern film: the three women at the heart of Mistress Of Evil are diplomats and politicians rather than warriors – even Ingrith, unabashedly a warmonger, only bears arms under dire circumstances; for most of the film, she exercises her power either from behind or atop a throne. Maleficent, meanwhile, moves in the shadows, preferring wars of wit to open conflict: and as for Aurora, she is sunny, optimistic and gentle, ruling with kindness and tender compassion. Yet all three are rightly considered powerful forces in the world they inhabit, as queens and unchallenged guardians of their respective plots of land. And there is one female character (no spoilers!), who has only a small role throughout the film, but a critical part to play in the third act: the culmination of her arc has a ripped-from-the-headlines quality that is at once startling, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking.

With so much progressive, forward-thinking messaging going on, there is one notable instance that stands out to me as either a bad – and unintentional – decision on the filmmakers’ part, or a conscious decision with a third film in mind (a third film that will only happen if Mistress Of Evil takes off at the box-office): and that decision is putting humans in control of fairies. It screams of colonialism every time it gets brought up, and the film outright denounces it, but never actually does anything about it when it’s Aurora, our heroine, doing it. Queen Ingrith has a point when she tells Aurora that there’s more to ruling a kingdom than running around barefoot with flowers in one’s hair – but, well, Ingrith is evil, so obviously Aurora doesn’t actually heed her warning or do anything to remedy the glaring problem. She’s simply not a very effective queen, and she spends probably ten minutes (at most) with her own people – but we’re supposed to trust that she’s the best person for the job because…she left the fairies in the lurch while she went off to plan her wedding? She angered Maleficent and caused her to leave the moors unguarded against human threats? She did basically nothing for the rest of the film? The film never adequately explains why a human should be allowed to rule fairy affairs, and the open hostility from the Dark Fae makes one wonder if everything will really be fine and dandy after Aurora’s marriage to Phillip firmly establishes that more, not less, human interference is on the horizon.

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However, unlike some films, Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil successfully stands on its own, requiring no previous knowledge of the franchise to follow along with its plot and leaving no cliff-hangers or unresolved storylines to torment the viewer afterwards – all in all, this movie is not what I would call necessary viewing, but it is fun, beautiful and spectacular. And it has got Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer together onscreen, which is itself worth the price of admission.

Movie Rating: 5.0/10

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Fire And Ice: Frozen 2 Theories!

Warning: Potential Spoilers For Frozen 2 Ahead!

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The fact that I’m even writing a post about Frozen fan theories says a lot about just how different this sequel is expected to be from the 2013 musical we all know and love. If I had tried to write something similar back then, it probably would have boiled down to: “um, I’m getting the feeling there might be a catchy song and a snowman”. These days, though, we’ve got pages worth of ancient Nordic runes, Scandinavian magic and epic assumptions to scroll through.

Firstly, because this has nothing to do with the rest of the post but is still important to me, I completely overlooked the fact, in my initial Frozen 2 trailer reaction, that Disney released said trailer for their Autumn-themed Frozen sequel on the first day of Autumn: that’s a not-so-subtle nuance that really shouldn’t have escaped my attention, but did. Just thought I should point that out, since it’s a clever little thing that I would have praised, had I been paying attention to the calendar.

Anyway, moving on! We have, surprisingly, quite a lot to talk about in this post: the first Frozen movie might have been a relatively one-dimensional story about an unbreakable bond between sisters and the power of true love, but its sequel is heading in a completely different direction: into the unknown. From here on out, you can trade in your expectations of singing snowmen and dancing trolls for a more bleak, introspective vision of war, dark magic, and the attack of the Autumn leaves (which sounds like a parody of a bad 1950’s horror movie, but whatever).

It looks, from Disney’s hints and fans’ speculation, that the big question we all had after the first movie will finally be answered in some capacity: why, exactly, does Queen Elsa have the power to manipulate ice and wintry climates? How did her parents know about her magic, and how did they know exactly what to do when Elsa nearly killed her own sister with an icicle? How did they know about the trolls? And because they technically died off-screen, are we sure they’re not really still alive?

All of these questions look like they might get answered, because all of them seem to be intertwined with each other. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this latest trailer alone, and, combined with the previous trailer and the initial teaser, we actually have a pretty solid idea of what might be going on in Frozen 2. Let’s go through it all.

Firstly, what is Elsa? Well, so far, the trailers have been hinting that Elsa is wondering that too, and that she’s been receiving strange visions and hearing mysterious voices in her head: she stares off wistfully toward the north, out past the borders of her country, and she receives a visit from a spectral snowflake that leads her astray, dancing wildly, into the wilderness beyond the walls of Arendelle. This bobbing light has much in common with the will-o’-the-wisp of European folklore; a ghostly lamp that guides unwary travelers off the beaten path and into danger. Since Frozen takes place somewhere in a roughly Norwegian-inspired fantasy setting, we can safely assume that the basis for this particular wisp might be the Hessdalen lights, which have been sighted in Norway for about the last years – but there’s also a strong chance that Disney’s creative team is inspired by the legends of phantom horses such as the kelpie and nøkk, whom we’ll talk about a little later.

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Wherever the mystery light comes from, it causes Elsa to lose control of herself and accidentally cause a blast of ice-magic that drops hovering, diamond-shaped crystals over Arendelle; diamond-shaped crystals which may or may not be marked with ancient Norse runes signifying the four seasons, and the elements of earth, air, water and fire (for more on that, see here). It’s hard to tell, but this might happen at the same time as the sudden gust of wind that sends Autumn leaves cascading through the city streets, and the strange purple flame that blows up all the streetlamps: the flames look very much like the ones that later encircle Elsa in the enchanted forest, and its erratic nature seems to bear much in common with the will-o’-the-wisp at first, at least until you take a closer look at Norwegian folklore and uncover the little-known (but fascinating) myth of the revontulet, or “fire fox”. A tiny Arctic fox scampering across the sky so fast that the sparks from his tail cause the Northern Lights to appear, the fox is also a manifestation of winter, with some versions of the story suggesting the “sparks” are in fact snowflakes. It might not be a coincidence that the Northern Lights themselves have actually shown up a few times in the trailers for Frozen 2, with Elsa and Anna’s mother seen staring out the window at them in a flashback sequence. For more about the significance of the Northern Lights in folklore, see here.

Elsa and Anna’s mother is, herself, an interesting character. It’s been teased that the sisters’ now deceased parents might have known more than they let on, and I’m beginning to suspect that the mother, especially, had a very intriguing backstory. In this new trailer, we see her watching with a curious expression while her husband, King Agnarr, recounts the story of the enchanted forest to their daughters: she pauses at the door, maybe smiling, maybe saddened, before leaving the room – almost as if she knows a part of the story that even Agnarr doesn’t. But Agnarr certainly seems to know a lot: from the flashback sequence that plays over his narration, it looks like he lived in the enchanted forest as a young man – or was stationed there as a soldier, since everyone there seems to be wearing military uniform. In the flashback, a swirl of Autumn leaves dancing in the wind catches his eye, and leads him to a glade in the forest where a girl appears to be using magic to fly. And if I’m not mistaken, that girl, who everybody thought might be Anna’s daughter when she showed up in the first teaser, is actually Anna and Elsa’s mother, Queen Iduna – and that means Agnarr is the boy we glimpsed flying through the air with her, too. Which means that, assuming that was Idunna’s magic and not the inherent magic of the forest, Elsa inherited her power from her mother; just in a slightly different form.

But it’s not that simple. Agnarr’s narration is quite obviously edited to hide a secret (probably the “that’s where I met your mother” moment), but he also doesn’t say what caused him and the rest of his people to leave the enchanted forest. But again, I have some guesses, and I’m kind of excited, because it looks like Disney might – might – be going in a very unexpected direction with this story. One of the most interesting new snippets of material in this trailer is a flashback where people dressed in the military uniform of Arendelle are seen fighting others clad in the heavy furs of the indigenous Sámi peoples of Scandinavia. Could it be that Disney is attempting a fantasy allegory for the real-life persecution of the Sámi by the Norwegian and Swedish governments – a wide-spread persecution that spanned several centuries, during which the native peoples were exiled from their ancestral homelands, converted to Christianity, burned at the stake for witchcraft, and robbed of their culture: to this day, the damage done to the Sámi has not been made up for, and countries such as Sweden and Finland continue to stamp on their freedoms, and use their lands for mining, wiping out the reindeer that the Sámi depend upon to live: speaking of reindeer, an entire herd of them is seen in the Frozen 2 trailers, adopting Sven into their ranks and riding into battle. Is it possible that the battle we see in the trailer is partly inspired by this historical tragedy, and that that is the reason why Agnarr says the people of the enchanted forest hid themselves from the rest of the world, behind a wall of magical mist, never to be seen again? Is that why Iduna, possibly a Sámi herself, seems so sad when she hears the story? If Disney is doing this, and can pull it off with some degree of sensitivity and logic, it could make this movie a very important one indeed: if done wrong, well…it could become another Pocahontas.

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The Sámi also have a rich magical history, one that could easily make the move to the big screen: in their culture, men and women known as noaidis acted as shamans and guardians of the community, using magic and meditation to speak with spirits and ward off evil. In the trailer, we catch a glimpse of a woman with long gray hair who appears to act as a noaidi for the enchanted forest, questioning Anna and Elsa about their own magic. We also see a man, Lieutenant Matthias, who is dressed in the Arendelle uniform but is quite clearly living in the forest, and is quite friendly with the rest of his people. Did he choose to stay there because he saw the error of his ways? Or does he have a different purpose? It’s hard to say just yet. For more information on the history of the Sámi, see here.

Whatever Elsa might find out in the forest, she is probably not the only one who wants to find it: somebody, or something, is coming after her, and is using magic to do so. We see a large giant made of stone, possibly one of the Stallo of Sámi folklore, chasing Anna and Kristoff through the woods, and hunting for Elsa at night, while she cowers behind a tree. The “fire fox” could also be an enemy, assuming it’s not one of Elsa’s accidents. In the teaser, we saw its pink flames encircling Elsa and Olaf in a heart shape; in the first trailer, it was seen leaping from tree to tree, spreading rapidly, and we also got a quick look at its aftermath – a burned out clearing in the woods, and Elsa hunched over in the ashes and snow, crying, while Anna came slowly to her side; before being abruptly carried out of the scene by Kristoff, who appeared to be trying to save her from Elsa. Now, something that I think is pretty important to note is that in between the fire starting and the fire ending, Olaf disappears. I’m not saying that he gets melted, but…well, actually, that is what I’m saying. Obviously, he’d probably be brought back to life soon enough (Elsa being a walking ice-machine and all), but a tragic death scene would certainly raise the stakes and remind us that this isn’t the Frozen we thought we knew.

As for what happens in the third act, when all is said and done, I can’t even hazard a guess, but I feel pretty certain that the scenes of Elsa’s underwater battle with the horse, Anna’s captivity in the cave, and all of that amazing ice-magic imagery from the new trailer might come from the latter part of the movie, as Elsa unlocks her full potential and gains new purpose, understanding whatever it is she has to do in order to save Arendelle from…whoever or whatever her enemy is.

But why, you ask, is she fighting an underwater battle with a horse? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have an answer. That horse is in fact a Nøkk, a creature very similar to the kelpie of Scottish legend: a male water-spirit taking the form of a horse, the nøkk is a master of music and magic, a malevolent phantom that carries its victims into the ocean to drown – something it clearly tries to do to Elsa in the trailer, holding her underwater with its hoofs, before Elsa responds with a blast of ice magic. But it looks like Elsa is eventually able to tame this nøkk; possibly, as in the legends, by using his true name. Does this mean that Elsa will also be allowed to learn the enchanting song of the nøkk, which bestows its singer with the power to basically mind control your enemies?

So…what are your ideas? Am I overthinking everything, or is there a possibility that Disney is, in fact, drawing on the depths of Scandinavian folklore for this new movie? Share your own thoughts and theories in the comments below!

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“Frozen 2” Trailer!

Disney is preparing two last box-office juggernauts for the end of this very profitable year – but in the event that Star Wars is a wildcard disaster, there’s one franchise you can always count on to turn in a profit, whether through ticket sales, accompanying merch, and Olaf waffle-makers: Frozen.

This new trailer finally delivers some of the classic hallmarks of the first film, including, of course, Olaf himself. As someone who intensely dislikes Olaf (when I’m not secretly laughing at all his jokes) it gives me great joy that this trailer ends with a brief scene of him running through a forest being pursued by every imaginable danger. Melt, you over-commercialized snowman! Melt!

There are no songs to be heard, which is something of a disappointment, but in place of that we get lots of action, epic visuals, and an interesting little mystery. Finally, we have some idea of what the film’s plot might be – Queen Elsa is being called to an enchanted forest far away in the north, somewhere her father once visited, before war broke out, and some sort of tidal wave of Autumn leaves drove everyone away. Now, those Autumn leaves sweep through the city of Arendelle, threatening to….um, well, I can’t actually think of why leaves would be so terrifying, but then again, Stephen King has a horror novel about killer grass, so what do I know? Maybe these leaves refuse to be raked. That would be evil.

To understand the calling, Elsa, her sister Anna, along with Kristoff, Olaf, and the reindeer Sven, travel north to the magical woodlands. They immediately run into some high-stakes danger: we see Elsa leaping over ice pillars through what might be a cave; the whole team getting picked up by a tornado; Anna and Kristoff on the run from a stone giant; Elsa surrounded by a raging pink wildfire in the forest. But we also get to see them fighting back – and the visual spectacle is wild. Elsa’s underwater battle with the ghost-horse from the second trailer, for instance, here leads to her literally rising above the waves in what looks like an ice-chariot before looping electric-blue reins around the horse in a stunning display of sparkle and shadow, before riding off across the surface of the ocean.

Oh yeah, and apparently there’s people who want to take over Arendelle for some reason? They might be connected to the attack of the Autumn leaves, so maybe they’re the ones who drove everyone away to begin with – or maybe they want Elsa’s powers for themselves? Do they have anything to do with Elsa’s powers? That bit is still a little unclear. I guess we’ll have to find out when Frozen 2 hits theaters this November.

So what do you think? Are you prepared to go into the unknown with Elsa and Anna, or does all this sword-fighting and epic magic miss the point of Frozen? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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“Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” Full-Length Trailer!

Who expected Maleficent to be the year’s most epic family drama? Even Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, with its all-stars cast, pales in comparison to a film starring Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer as rivals vying to control – and mother – the rebellious young princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), in one epic custody battle involving magic, witchcraft, and giant bears ripping people limb-from-limb. We even get the pleasure of watching Jolie literally turn people into burning skeletons, while Pfeiffer takes aim at her with a hefty-looking crossbow, and – wait a moment: this is a Disney movie?

Indeed it is, proving that the Mouse House isn’t afraid to take some risks every now and again. After the first teaser for the film dropped, I was a little worried that the whole thing was just going to be a sparring match of witty one-liners between Jolie and Pfeiffer, and it might still boil down to that in the end: Jolie’s performance as the demonic sorceress Maleficent seems to be mostly about evoking a “mood” – with lines like “Don’t ruin my morning!” and “Love doesn’t always end well” dropped as if they’re mantras to live by, while her variety of outfits continue to stun and dazzle (though I still hate the wings: even worse, there’s more wings on the way, but we’ll get to that in a moment). Pfeiffer’s character, the Queen Ingrith, is quite clearly a villain: the smirk on her face as she embraces Aurora makes it kind of obvious that she’s not just concerned for the princess’ well-being – though it’s still a little unclear as to why she wants to risk open war with Maleficent’s forces of magic. As we go “beyond the fairytale”, a lot of things become unclear.

Granted, there’s still a lot of good stuff in the trailer: the darker elements are still very cool and surprising; Jolie and Pfeiffer are still good actresses, so their dynamic looks interesting and it does appear that we will indeed get some intense showdowns between them, such as I asked for after the first trailer; the production values look great (except for Jolie’s wings and horns: for some reason, Maleficent is the only character in the film whose costumes look completely bizarre and uncomfortable). The first film was criticized for relying too heavily on special effects, but honestly…the special effects look like they’ve only gotten better. There’s a real sense of danger from the trailer, something that Disney doesn’t often indulge in – I genuinely don’t know what will happen: will Maleficent conquer the forces that oppose her, and win back her adopted daughter? Will Aurora choose to leave the beguiling witch, and instead risk it all for true love? And what’s going on at the end of the trailer?

Near the end, we watch Jolie’s character get hit by crossbow arrows – fired by some of Ingrith’s own henchmen, or at least it appears that way. Anyway, she falls into the sea and is saved by a strange dark shape, that carries her away to some other mystical place of labyrinthine tunnels and glowing caverns where she encounters…Chiwetel Ejiofor? Sorry, that’s Chiwetel Ejiofor dressed up with horns and giant wings (wings that look just as ridiculous as Jolie’s). In fact, it turns out there’s a whole bunch of other demons like Maleficent (all of them winged and horned, to my dismay), and they want her to join them in their…war against Ingrith? Quest for world domination? Hunt for a better costume designer?

I don’t know what’s going on there, but it looks like both Maleficent and Aurora will be conflicted as their mother/daughter relationship is tested by the forces of evil – including Maleficent herself.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

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Halle Bailey Will Head Under The Sea For “The Little Mermaid”!

And no, that’s not Halle Berry, it’s Halle Bailey.  Go get your eyes checked.

Halle Bailey Will Head Under The Sea For "The Little Mermaid"! 8
thefamouspeople.com

Halle Bailey is the nineteen year-old singer and actress best known for her R&B singing duo, Chloe x Halle, and her role on the hit TV show Grown-ish, is officially joining Disney for their live-action The Little Mermaid. And she’s not just playing a bit part – she’s actually going to be the Little Mermaid, as in, she is playing Ariel. That’s right: for the first time in forever, Disney is race-bending one of their princesses! And it’s perfect.

First of all, Halle Bailey can sing, and she has an amazing voice: in fact, while listening to her cover of “Unforgettable” – go check it out, you’ll thank me – I was struck by how much she sounded like she had just strolled out of the 1920s: she would have made a fantastic Tiana in a live-action Princess And The Frog. But as Ariel – oh, I’m so excited! Her voice is so just so perfect. I don’t even know exactly why, but it just…well, it just is. It’s not the kind of teeny-bopper vocal range I was expecting Disney to go for with their live-action Ariel: that was my fear, in fact, after I started hearing rumors that Harry Styles had been cast as Prince Eric, alongside Zendaya as Ariel.

Now, I know there are going to be people complaining that Zendaya didn’t get the role, after people have been basically begging her to join the cast. But I’ve got to say, having seen Spider-man: Far From Home just yesterday, I’m not too unhappy about that. Don’t get me wrong – Zendaya is a good actress, and I know that, but I’m not on her hype-train right now, and that’s why this news comes at such a perfect moment. I’m open to suggestions – and this suggestion, so unexpected, so fresh, so unique…is a miracle.

And then there are going to be people complaining that Ariel isn’t black, and that Disney shouldn’t race-bend a Caucasian princess: their reasoning will be that the original fairytale off of which The Little Mermaid is based is a Danish story, and the majority of Danish people are white. Well, guess what – Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid doesn’t take place in Denmark: it’s set in the Caribbean, where the majority of the population is black or Hispanic. By making her white in the original movie, Disney was race-bending, just like they race-bent Aladdin and Jasmine, making them Arabic instead of Chinese. Having a black woman play Ariel is the perfect way to show that Disney actually cares about making their films accurate, at least a little. Granted, the film will still include mermaids, so we can probably throw accuracy to the winds.

This news is especially advantageous since it comes right after Melissa McCarthy was cast as Ursula, in a shocking move that upset almost everybody. One of the biggest complaints was that Ursula should have been portrayed by a woman of color – now, through this genius casting decision, Disney has partially made up for that. It would be even better if they would recast Ursula too, but I’ll settle for Ariel – as long as she’s not the only black mermaid under the sea. We know that Asian-American comedian Awkwafina has been cast as Ariel’s seagull companion, Scuttle, so maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that there are lots of different types of merpeople?

So what do you think? Are you happy with the casting choice? Do you think that Ursula should be recast? Leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for more updates!

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Disney Live-Action Remake News!

Unsurprisingly, Disney continues to churn out live-action remakes of all their beloved animated classics: this year alone, we’ve gotten modernized versions of Dumbo and Aladdin, and The Lion King will premiere a few weeks from now. Next year, we’ll get a live-action Mulan, and possibly The Little Mermaid, with Snow White arriving soon after. And as long as the Mouse House makes these movies, there will continue to be a loud opposition to this trend of redoing and revamping films that don’t technically need a 21st Century update – and, while the remake-resistance has been wrong before (Will Smith’s Genie looks like a Smurf!), they’re also often right about a lot of stuff, a lot of the time (Emma Watson can’t sing!).

Right now is one of those times. Let’s break down both big news stories that dropped, yesterday and today, and why this weekend is going to be a really stressful one for everybody at Disney.

First, yesterday’s news: even though the live-action The Little Mermaid is still a long way away, an actress has been cast to play the film’s villain, the sea-witch Ursula. That actress is…Melissa McCarthy.

Now don’t get me wrong, Melissa McCarthy is a great actress, she has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, and she can be both dramatic and funny. I was actually pleasantly surprised at first, when I heard she had become the first person to join the cast: it seemed like an instant win for all involved. McCarthy hasn’t been selling a lot of tickets recently, and The Little Mermaid needs a big name, just like Aladdin needed Will Smith. Then I started seeing the arguments against McCarthy’s casting, and I was dubious – I immediately assumed it was nothing more than the usual backlash towards any remake.

Disney Live-Action Remake News! 9
cosmopolitan.com

And then I decided to dig a little deeper, and I realized that there are a ton of valid complaints here:

  1. While Ursula was originally voiced by a white woman in the 1989 movie, the character has been changing in more recent iterations, with black actresses like Yvette Nicole Brown or Whoopi Goldberg playing or voicing her in the TV show Once Upon A Time and movie Descendants 2, respectively. The change inspired some to think that, in this live-action Little Mermaid, a woman of color would portray the iconic Disney villain – rappers Queen Latifah (who did a Disney-sponsored photoshoot in 2011 while dressed as the character) and Lizzo were both high up on most peoples’ fancasts, with Lizzo even getting in on the fun and dressing up as Ursula while performing “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. To make Ursula white again and reverse years of progress, seems like a slap in the face.
  2. It’s no secret that the original Ursula is a thinly-disguised – and, frankly, offensive – caricature of American drag queen Divine, and because of that the character has become something of a “gay-energy icon” in recent years, with many wanting to see her fully reclaimed in a more positive light by the LGBTQ+ community. As a nod to her origins, fans thought it would be fitting if the live-action version of the character was portrayed by a drag queen  – but apparently Disney isn’t ready to do something that bold, even though drag queens are fast becoming some of the most popular celebrities in America.
  3. Just as important as both of these points is the fact that Melissa McCarthy is not a singer. She has sung, yes, and she was once even part of a duet with Barbra Streisand herself – but her vocals aren’t all that impressive, and her singing style is pretty nondescript, nothing like the hugely over-the-top, charismatic voice of Pat Carroll’s original Ursula. Again, there are any number of more talented musicians who could have brought something truly fascinating to the part, and might even have warranted new songs being written specifically for the character: Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Adele, or Keala Settle all come to mind. Gaga and Adele have both won Oscars for their original music, too (and Gaga has also dressed as Ursula before).

Pretty much the only reason I can think of to cast McCarthy is because of her undeniable enthusiasm for body-positivity: Ursula’s cool confidence about her own image has made her an icon of body diversity (she’s an icon for a lot of people, I’ve learned). Maybe that’s something that Disney wants to lean into – maybe they want to use Ursula to address some important social issues. Then again, Disney is the same company that tried to slim down Ursula for their Disney Villain toy line in 2012. Is this a belated apology for that incident, or mere coincidence?

Whatever the reasoning might be for casting Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, what’s done is done. While the actress is apparently still in early talks, it looks like other, more promising, candidates for the role are admitting defeat, with Lizzo tweeting out a sad-face emoji in response to the news. The internet is pretty much unanimously outraged, and hopefully Disney rethinks their casting choice before it’s too late.

But today, Disney has only caused themselves even more pain and grief: a new report suggests that the live-action Mulan (which I’m actually looking forward to) will not include Mulan’s fire-breathing dragon sidekick, Mushu – instead, he will be replaced by a phoenix, something that Disney purists aren’t too thrilled about. Did I mention that there also won’t be any of the original songs that made the animated Mulan so good? No I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. No Reflection. No Honor To Us All. Just instrumental music.

Yeah, so…that’s all I’ve got for you today. I’m really interested to hear what you think? Do these things bother you? Are you excited for the live-action The Little Mermaid and Mulan? Expect more updates on both of these stories from Disney’s D23 event later this summer, and stay tuned!

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Toy Story 4 Trailer Review!

Deeply conflicting though this whole endeavor might be, I know I’m still interested to see how the Toy Story saga comes to a close. I love the first two Toy Story movies to infinity and beyond, but the third was a massive letdown, and I still don’t want to get my hopes up for the fourth – the final installment in this series that is so deeply ingrained in the public conscious, and in the hearts of so many people.

It’s been a harrowing adventure getting to this trailer – the first teasers were rather dull, and the first look at Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was so different, that I think a lot of people have been slightly concerned, or maybe just uncertain whether or not this film is worth going to see in theaters.

But come on, this is the end of Toy Story. Even if it is awful, are you really going to miss out on this movie?

Well, let’s take a look at the trailer that Disney/Pixar dropped today, and we’ll see.

So it starts out with Woody (Tom Hanks) introducing us to a new toy, Forky (Tony Hale) – who is, as the name suggests, a fork: or, rather, a spork, as one of the other toys says when they meet this pessimistic piece of plastic.

It soon becomes clear that Forky is no ordinary toy. He was created by the toys’ owner, Bonnie, and he clearly has no idea why he’s alive, or what it means to be a toy: in his own words, “I was made for soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!”

So he tries to escape, by literally jumping out of a moving vehicle. And Woody, who has decided that nothing is more important than keeping Bonnie happy, jumps out after him, in a desperate attempt to rescue the spork, and bring him back.

The logistics would suggest that a spork that goes flying out of the back of a trailer would be lost forever on the highway, but Woody finds him and tries to remind him of his duties as a toy: he is there to “help create happy memories”. Forky doesn’t seem particularly interested, and you can’t blame him – I mean, the chances of them ever finding Bonnie and the other toys again is slim to none.

But…all is not lost.

The two lost toys stumble wearily into the town of Grand Basin, which hosts a large fair and a massive antique store. Woody glances through the grimy window of this store and happens to spot something quite unusual: a very familiar lamp. It’s a real gasp-out-loud moment, and I love it. This lamp, of course, is Little Bo Peep’s lamp.

So Woody enters the antique store, and goes looking for Bo Peep. Instead, he finds a collection of extraordinarily creepy antique toys, led by a frightening little doll named Gabby Gabby, who rides around in a perambulator with ventriloquist-dummy bodyguards. Woody and Forky look to be in a dangerous situation when they are suddenly rescued by the intervention of Little Bo Peep herself, who comes flying out of nowhere, wielding her shepherd’s crook with skill – she expertly nabs Gabby Gabby and tosses her off a shelf. Seeing Bo Peep as a crime-fighting superhero is rather odd, and takes some getting used to, but there’s still something natural about her, that makes her likable, and fun. Clearly, something has happened to Bo Peep that we’re only now going to learn about – the mild-mannered shepherdess has become tougher and wiser, and she’s decided to take risks and go solo: she tells Woody that toys don’t have to spend their entire lives making kids happy: they can have lives of their own, on their own.

What’s really surprising is that we see Woody beginning to agree. The roles are now reversed: Forky asks him if they’re going back to find Bonnie, and Woody doesn’t even seem to hear him.

But the other toys aren’t going to just let their friend go this easily: Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) make a plan to go find Woody, and they end up at the fair too. There’s a clip of Bonnie searching desperately for Forky, and crying – Pixar’s going to have us all in tears by the end of this, of course.

Meanwhile, Woody is having the time of his life: in fact, he and Bo Peep are going to clubs and going on dates – “Change can be good,” Bo Peep tells him, and it seems she’s right.

Obviously, Woody will be having an existential crisis, as is normal for him, but this one seems more serious than anything he’s faced before. Something tells me that, at the end of this, the toys might all go their separate ways. Some might stay with Bonnie. Some might stay at this fair, where Bo Peep seems to be living. Some might just go off into the world. But nothing’s ever going back to the way things were: the trailer helpfully inserts a flashback of Andy, the toys’ original owner, playing with Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, to illustrate this point.

Except, it’s not Andy.

Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of Toy Story knows that Andy’s room had wallpaper decorated with clouds: it’s iconic. The cloud wallpaper is closely tied to the whole franchise, and was even featured in the first teaser for this movie. But here, where, supposedly, we are getting a flashback to the good old days when Andy owned the toys, there’s no cloud wallpaper: there’s large yellow stars on the walls, and they stand out like…like, large yellow stars. The kid clearly has Andy’s hat – so my best guess is that Buzz Lightyear and Jessie end up with Andy’s kid, somewhere down the line. I don’t want that to be true, but that’s my prediction.

Anyway, the trailer than packs a last little punch: there’s a scene with Woody and Bo Peep standing under a car in the rain, which looks like it’ll be incredibly emotional. “Kids lose their toys every day,” Bo Peep reminds Woody.

In the end, it’s Forky who, surprisingly, looks to be the moral compass of this movie: he tells Woody that “everything’s gonna be OK”, and then we see one last shot of Woody smiling, before the title appears, and the screen fades to black.

Now, in some ways, I really like this trailer: Pixar knows how to leave us sobbing in the theater, so I have no doubt it’ll be an emotional sledgehammer. But will it be a fitting conclusion to the story? Will we be given a chance to say goodbye to each and every one of these wonderful toys? Will Andy ever show up again? Where will Woody, Buzz and Bo end up spending the rest of their lives? There’s too many questions, and too little time to wrap up all the loose ends.

But yeah, the movie could be good, bad, or just middle-of-the-road, but it’s the last one. Let that sink in before you decide to skip this film in theaters.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

 

EDIT: I have learned that the star wallpaper is in fact in Toy Story 2, and I feel quite humiliated that I did not realize that – I guess my supposed knowledge is less than comprehensive. So, yeah, that probably is a flashback: I will, however, point out that the animation there does nothing to convince me of that, since the kid looks nothing like Andy from the original Toy Story movies.

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Aladdin First Full-Length Trailer!

As someone who (a) was never a die-hard fan of the original animated Aladdin, (b) isn’t too fond of the Disney Remake trend, and (c) wasn’t impressed by either of the two teasers put out for this Disney Remake of a film I don’t really care one way or the other about – I went into this first full-length trailer more than slightly concerned that this would just be…flat. Meh. Forgettable.

But now, I see how wrong I was.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, this could just be a trick of the trailer-editing: after all, the teaser was greeted with so much backlash that Disney basically had to put together a trailer that was beautiful, nostalgic and action-packed, so I shouldn’t be surprised that this looks so good. Maybe they just stitched together all of the best parts from the movie, and the rest of the film is less than perfect.

But look here: the trailer opens with a cool action sequence of Aladdin (Mena Massoud) dodging some soldiers in the marketplace of Agrabah. After escaping from them, he runs straight into our beloved Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). The tingle of romance in the air is palpable: Massoud does a great job in this scene, and looks completely infatuated. Jasmine herself is in street-garb, maybe hiding her royal identity: it’s been said that in this remake, Jasmine takes more of an interest in the people of her city, and is trying to explore Agrabah to help the impoverished citizens.

The trailer then takes a turn, and gets dark: Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) strides confidently through his underground lair at 0:24, while Iago flies past (more on him in a minute). Jafar looks good enough from the back, though I’m still not sold on his voice. He leads Aladdin through the desert, promising him wealth: wealth enough “to impress a princess”. At 0:35 Jasmine appears again, but now she is in full royal garb: she’s got her tiger, and her guards, and she looks majestic. The palace itself looks absolutely stunning: we haven’t gotten quite enough wide shots of the entire palace, but what we see in this teaser is enough to make me feel very awed and humbled.

Anyway, the next shock is that Aladdin actually speaks! This is the first time that our lead character has said a single word in the promotional material for this film – such an achievement. Well, now that he actually does speak, his voice sounds fine: he’s not got an impressive voice, by any means. Better than Jafar’s, though.

The Cave of Wonders! At 0:43, we enter the Cave – it looks fine. Very blue-toned, still. Not, maybe, as wondrous as I would have liked, but good enough. But whatever: we’ve seen this same scene in all the teasers now, and – but wait! The Lamp! It’s so beautiful, and it’s filled with swirling blue light under what seems to be a transparent lid: a nice touch. I’m now holding my breath, waiting to see what I think of The Genie (Will Smith), The Genie that will emerge from this beautiful lamp and possibly make or break this movie, The Genie that looked so awful in the second teaser. The purple and blue smoke begins to rush from the lamp…

He looks fine.

The Genie looks fine. Still looks like a blue Will Smith, but the CGI has been much more exquisitely handled, and at least now it doesn’t seem like Will Smith’s head has been superimposed on someone else’s body. I mean, am I blown away by The Genie now? No, not exactly – that is to say, not in his Genie form – but he at least looks good enough now that he’s downright bizarre or even disturbing. There’s a snipper of “A Friend Like Me”, which seems good: Carpet has maracas, and that’s what really stood out the most to me about this scene. It really looks fun, and kind of awesome.

Our time in the Cave of Wonders is brief, as we are suddenly back in the desert, with Aladdin and The Genie side-by-side looking out over a barren landscape at 1:09. The Genie is only seen from a distance here, but the CGI looks not-so-good in that one shot.

But now, the trailer really starts making me interested – no, not just interested, but invested. The Genie transforms into, well, Will Smith, but not blue anymore, and it’s a relief. There’s some great humorous banter here. It’s great to see how Aladdin is prepared to just shamelessly take advantage of the fact that he now has three wishes at his disposal: he asks immediately “Can you make me a prince?”

The Genie, though, has a great response: “There’s a lot of gray area in: make me a prince” he states, and demonstrates by literally making a prince for Aladdin. I hope he has more scenes like that in the movie – it’s an almost Alice In Wonderland type joke, and I just love it.

Things start moving really quickly: The Genie changes Aladdin into Prince Ali; there’s a celebration in Agrabah – and another great shot of the palace; and there’s a party where The Genie is playing matchmaker for Aladdin and Jasmine. The next scene after that has Aladdin and Jasmine speaking to each other, probably after the party – Aladdin says he “thought a princess could go anywhere”. “Not this princess” Jasmine replies.

And then, we get our first look at “A Whole New World” – and it looks great. Pure magic, even for someone who really doesn’t consider the original Aladdin to be a great film. This looks really awesome. As our two lovebirds sing their hearts out, however, there’s other stuff going on onscreen that shouldn’t be ignored: Jasmine and Aladdin dancing, Aladdin falling towards the water, Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders again, Aladdin creeping along the rooftops of Agrabah, Aladdin in an icy landscape (wow, this trailer is going overboard to show us Aladdin after barely showing him at all in the first two teasers), and then Jafar with his cobra-staff, looking more impressive and villainous. At 2:02 we see Jasmine singing – this probably comes from the solo musical number they’ve given her for the remake. And then at 2:03 we have…

Wait, hold up…

Aladdin being chased by a giant Iago?

I honestly have no idea what this scene could be, or why Iago is gigantic, but it looks COOL, so I’m going to just accept it.

And then it ends, with one last beautiful glimpse of the Cave of Wonders. It looks very fun, very enjoyable, and everything looks so much better. I can’t wait to see more, and I can’t wait for May, to go see this film! Here’s hoping this is actually indicative of the finished product, and not just the work of some very savvy editors!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

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