2019 - 2h 8min
Aladdin is a 2019 American musical fantasy film directed by Guy Ritchie. It is a live action adaptation of Disney's 1992 animated film, which is based on the eponymous Middle Eastern folktale from One Thousand and One Nights. Will Smith was the first member of the cast to join, signing on to portray Genie in July 2017.
Movies have such a big impact on the consciousness of the public at large - and that's why I really applaud the fantastically produced new Aladdin movie! This film is really a must-watch for all ages - but as a family friendly movie - the adventure and the themes you will explore are such a gift to those in their formative years. Aladdin is a masterfully created 130 minutes of vibrant imagination brought to life by extraordinarily dynamic CGI - and the archetypal interactions of the classical myth are so wonderfully developed by truly A-class acting.
Diving straight into it - this is such a rich and dense movie in its value. Let us start with the pure enjoyment factor. Compared to a lot of people, I may considered a bit of a bore when it comes to humour - but even for me, I genuinely laughed out loud at least 20+ times - and in really sustained fits of laughter too! The comedy you will find is all about timing, relating to the characters' situation, and brilliantly executed facial animation - no cheapshot humour in sight - the prune debacle and the genie's rib-tickling interplay come to mind, and this is well after we have seen the protagonist's genuine connection with the princess, which in turn teaches us a lesson about authenticity. The CGI also makes for some great comedy - maybe it's just me, but the parrot returning to its normal size during the chase scene, and dropping like a rock while carrying the lamp - it's a very rare form of physical comedy which I really like, especially when executed with perfectly timed sound effects.
The genie in general, played by the ever charismatic Will Smith, is of course a great source of humour - and having an untouchable, all-powerful being with a light-hearted, heart-centric attitude in your movie adds something very unique. I find it interesting how the genie has some very interesting mystical interplays - for instance - blue skin being a symbol in Hinduism, which demonstrates a being which has turned the cosmic poison into a blue light emanating from the throat and spreading all over to the skin - giving the being immense power, but also an immense purification resulting in a spirit of goodwill and auspiciousness towards others. This raises an interesting question of where the genie came from, as the ending of the movie may indicate the same process coming full circle and being transferred to the antagonist. (I'm trying to make a point there without any spoilers!)
Another very fun character in the movie, and let's face it, this character is always fun - is the monkey, Abu. Some really great work has been done to express emotion through Abu, and the way his eyes stretch open super wide when seeing a spinning ruby-red gem connects with something deeper than human. The use of animals as the characters' closest friends is a really interesting exploration and demonstration of Aladdin and princess Jasmine's inner spirit. Aladdin's similarities of character are very obvious - from being small (socially), to be being a trickster, to be naughty, and to being agile.
Jasmine's fierce nature is a theme consistently explored in the movie. I must admit that for me, this movie speaks louder and more effectively on female power than any other resource I have ever come across. In 2019, there is obviously a major move for women's rights in the popular media today - but my concern is that this 'empowerment' is so readily and commonly distorted into simply masculating the woman, and this strips the woman of all the feminine qualities that make her great. Jasmine is of course very beautiful, but she has deep undertones of integrity and standing strong in her own truth. She isn't uncompromising or holier-than-though at all, and instead poises grace and empathy throughout. She shows deep compassion and concern for the people, but she isn't afraid to look evil straight in the eye and speak up. All of this is communicated through her companionship of a tiger - an elegant and beautiful form with teeth and a fierce nature. She maintains a balance between power and grace throughout the movie, during both moments of her greatest strength and also when all of her power has (seemingly) been stripped away. This is a great example of a very healthy female power, I think anyway, and the difficult, nuanced challenges she faces is a great demonstration of her integrity.
Integrity... this was one of my favourite themes explored in the movie. Real integrity is difficult, and one needs to remain steadfast when there isn't a clear 'way out' from temptation or despair. Without providing spoilers, Aladdin of course needs to come to grips with temptation, truthfulness, and staying true and honourable to his friends. What I enjoy about the portrayal of integrity in this film is that Aladdin does not simply stand steadfast like a rock before a waterfall - Aladdin struggles, and he nearly fails - but he contemplates and he remains open to the heartfelt messages of his friends.
Aladdin (the character) explores so many masculine themes. He repeatedly faces the temptation of feeling victimised and worthless when being shoved down by society. Every time he is abused is a challenge, but he shows a deep ability to stay resilient, and to demonstrate self worth and self belief - without turning the devil around and labelling the abuser as the evil one. This is a very noble attitude that is very rarely seen in our society today of external blaming. I paraphrase, but an early remark by a soldier to Aladdin: "You dare talk back to me?! You worthless street rat - only your flees will mourn death!" Wow.
Another brilliant quote is by Aladdin - "If you own nothing, then you have to act like you own the world." This comment was mentioned in passing, but it is such a great example of the richness and value that lies in so many corners of the movie. This is actually such a good point. Who actually 'owns' the city more... Aladdin as the lowly thief, or the Sultan? Sure, the Sultan has the power and admiration, but Aladdin knows the people, he knows the streets, he is free to explore and move around, and he can enjoy the views of the palace as much as the king.
Talking about freedom to explore... the genie is perhaps the most interesting character for me. He is all powerful... but what is the one thing he really wants? The only thing? The one thing that is easy for him to choose given he gets even a single wish? It is freedom! Freedom from yoked to the desired and commands of others. And when he does attain this freedom, what is the first thing he does with the this boon? He goes straight for love and intimacy. On the surface, this is just the simple desires of a comedy character, but it really does go deep into the human psyche about what is important to us, and what really, actually has meaning to us.
Let us know look at the other side of the coin, in brief - Jafar, the sorcerer, hypnotist villain, also comes from the same beginnings as Aladdin, being a common thief. The main difference is very obvious in their choice of path. Aladdin chooses the path of love and integrity, and Jafar chooses the path of power and self gratification. He tells us that he stole the position of a statesman earlier in his life, but he wasn't satisfied here - of course. A theme which is stressed repeatedly by the movie is how any amount of amassed power is never enough to satisfy the ego. Jafar cannot rest until he is the most powerful being in sight, he cannot stand being second. I like this point of 'cannot' - Jafar is far beyond the point of a character change into something positive, as he is far too deep and entangled into the game of power that his life has become. That is why it is so important for Aladdin to remain on the path of integrity, and not to dabble in the deceitful and power hungry opportunities that he is given. The easiest time to resist the next potato chip is by resisting the first one. Power is portrayed as a potato chip coated with a really addictive drug!
Jafar is portrayed as a very unhappy individual from the start - which I think is largely because he has cut himself off from love. Love has no meaning or value to him, and hence nothing will every provide him with fulfilment. It is unclear whether he can even remember what love is. This may be getting into overly esoteric in theme here, but the reference to the kundalini, the serpent power, is very obvious through the staff and the statues of large black snakes coiled over each other - and I think the movie does a great job of warning mystics of this power. It is 100% vital to stick to the side of love and nobility if you are going to be working with the kundalini, and one should not faulter for even a minute. The path of power is too easy to get lost in. In the end though, the universe seems to balance itself. Jafar achieved exactly what he wanted, on paper at least, and he is given the time and limitation to realize where he went wrong. Perhaps we are looking at a theme where the universe itself is intelligent and auspicious, and even the villain will transform in a way beneficial to himself. Sure, he has a lot of karma he needs to pay off as he struggles in his own mind for millennia with nothing to look at but brass, but in the end, he has been given exactly what he needs to transform, and exactly what he deserves.
The last quick point on Jafar - I think the fact that his closest ally is a parrot really says a lot, and it gives us a lot to think about in terms of who we surround ourselves with.
A lot of the credit should obviously go to the original tale, off of which this movie has built - but I genuinely believe this to be a true masterpiece of popular media. There is so much more that I haven't mentioned here, of course, and I invite you to think about how the themes of the movie relate to you, and how you can integrate those themes into your life. Maybe even share those insights with others. What does the movie communicate about ¬greed ¬parents and letting their children be free ¬deception and treachery ¬judging ¬humble beginnings ¬second chances ¬wealth ¬trust ¬gender roles?
And to stress the point again - I think this is a brilliant movie for children and young people. Like it or not, children pick up values from the media the watch, and what values are they really getting by watching Sponge Bob, Adventure Time, or other twisted and distorted 'children shows' heavily flowing with Asura Prakriti energy. Really, showing Aladdin to your children, and getting them excited about it, this would be so beneficial to them - the media they watch deeply soaks into the depths of their subconscious mind, and what they watch now will play out in their words and actions for a lifetime to come. A film like Aladdin, being so vibrant and colorful - and having so many wonderful values to share - it would be a shame if you let your children miss this.
But I don't want to make Aladdin seem like a purely children-only movie. It is an absolutely fantastic film for adults, filled with mature themes (by which I mean well developed themes), and you are bound to find this incredibly funny and fantastical - unless you have totally closed yourself off to this energy. This is a great opportunity for any adult to open up to the fantasy they knew as children, to soak up some healthy, dynamic and colourful imagery, to really enjoy yourself - and you can apply some really deep life lessons from the movie. I can guarantee that even a wise, old monk could find a handful of really meaningful life lessons from Aladdin, wrapped in a brilliant and radiant packaging, and filled to the core with an organic sweetness of wisdom.[sc name="Comments"]