Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: Maybe Everybody Won’t Hate Will Smith’s Genie Afterall
The announcement of Disney making live-action remakes of their animated classics brought discord already 23 years ago when 101 Dalmatians became the first film of these reboots. There were still enough fans won over with the idea to make this first film a barrel of money, not including Glenn Close’s involvement helping.
Since then, we’ve seen everything from a live-action Alice in Wonderland to Beauty and the Beast. More are coming, and Aladdin (releasing May 24) received nearly instantaneous mixed opinion.
In the first teaser trailer, everyone was appalled at how Will Smith initially looked as the Genie. With a new trailer out now, it appears his more varied appearance might appease the skepticism while borrowing from Hollywood history.
Will Smith in blue makeup?
We’ve seen more than our share of people who wear blue makeup on their faces as cosplay at places like ComicCon. Seeing Will Smith wearing what appeared to be real blue body makeup at the end of Aladdin’s teaser trailer just seemed to look…well, not quite right.
Arguably, Disney could have done a little more to show us how Smith’s Genie would be presented. Seeing him make wisecracks for ten seconds in the teaser made it look like Will Smith was essentially playing himself while attending a comic book convention in blue body paint.
Not that we fault Disney for this initial trailer since they obviously didn’t want to give too much away. Even so, it’s clear having Smith in the role was intended to give a hipper vibe. This isn’t to say Robin Williams didn’t provide the same, despite bringing a more timeless quality to his comedic improvisations.
The new official trailer shows Will Smith is likely better than we think
Cut ahead to March 12 when a more expansive trailer for the live-action Aladdin hit the internet. Fortunately, Disney swapped out the introductory scene of Will Smith as Genie for one showing him looking like a giant and talking in a deep, monotone voice. It’s a bit of a nod to the genie seen in the classic 1940 film The Thief of Baghdad (with Rex Ingram in the role). Others note it’s an additional nod to James Monroe Iglehart’s performance in the Broadway edition of Aladdin.
Smith’s appearance seems to take inspiration directly from both while subsequently taking the zany comedic inspiration from Robin Williams.
Whatever the producers’ real intentions, the new trailer also shows us more variation in how Smith will be presented. We see him in various guises, perhaps out of convenience since Smith likely didn’t want to be filming long-term in blue makeup every single day. Plus, it was likely to appease the snark fans gave after the teaser trailer went live last February.
Whether the blue makeup was real or just CGI is something still unknown, outside of Smith saying to EW he’d mostly be CGI in the film.
Presenting Will Smith with his real face is ideal
We think it’s a creative move to show how the Genie in this remake can make himself look like a real person to blend in to society. In fact, you can see another inspiration to the above film The Thief of Baghdad. Rex Ingram was also African-American and presented himself with his real skin color while playing the genie, Djinn.
Was this an insightful move by director Guy Ritchie (hired to give a street-smart look to Aladdin), or maybe one of the producers? It’s great to see the possible inspirations, but it’s also fun to see Disney not worry about slathering all the CGI magic onto Smith’s Genie.
The film appears to allow the Genie to transform in various ways so it’s not Smith throwing one-liners around continually with a blue face.
From all indications, the scenes with him in blue makeup appear minimal. It could have been a last-minute dash to fix after Disney studied audience reactions like a hawk.