Summer is now well underway with three $100+ million movies under our belt. Avengers is obviously past that benchmark while Detective Pikachu and John Wick 3 are currently fighting it out for the runner-up spot with both hoping to end around $150 million. The next contestant vying for second place of the season is Aladdin, Disney’s latest live-action update of a classic animated musical.
5 Ways to Prep: Aladdin
By George Rose
May 23, 2019
There was once a time when Disney held up Hollywood on its four cornerstone brands: Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Princesses. Marvel is riding high as the crown jewel, Pixar has been very reliable if not a tad unoriginal lately, Star Wars has been on a downward spiral since Force Awakens, and the Princesses suffer from split personalities. I say that because in one hand you have the original animation that becomes the classic that is later recycled into live-action updates. It’s like they’re different entities but, really, who isn’t watching Frozen and wondering what the live-action version will be like in 10 years?
It isn’t just the princesses but also all of Disney’s non-Pixar animation, and they run the gamut on quality and profitability. Alice and Wonderland used the 3D novelty to kickstart the fad to $300+ domestic and $1+ billion worldwide. Then there was the $200+ million worthwhile success of Princess stories like Cinderella and Maleficent, and $500+ million mega success stories like Beauty and the Beast. The animals are similar but on a smaller scale; you’ve got lukewarm success like the $100+ million Dumbo and the gold-standard of photo-realistic CGI with the $300+ million Jungle Book. Where Aladdin falls in this $100-500 million range is anyone’s guess at this point.
If you asked me a year ago, I’d say Beauty’s $500 million meant Aladdin would earn $600 million and July’s Lion King would earn $700 million, simply because of a similar earnings progression for their animated counterparts. Well, early fan outrage over the Genie’s appearance have led analysts to lower expectations all the way down to a sub-$100 million debut and around $200 million domestically. This seems INSANE to me. Really?! Fans are that butt-hurt over some early CGI work? This is freaking Aladdin we’re talking about. Not Dumbo, not Cinderella, not even the decent-at-best Maleficent. I want to say, “In what world does Aladdin make less than $300 or $400 million?!” Then again, in what world do studios continue to release tentpole films on the clearly haunted weekend of Memorial Day?
Do you know there hasn’t been a film released on this weekend to top $300 million since 2008’s Indiana Jones 4? In fact, besides Indy 4 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3, no film released on Memorial Day has exceeded $300 million. WHAT THE FK WAS DISNEY THINKING?!?! As if Solo wasn’t a big enough red flag last year. Well, here we are in 2019 and I imagine plenty of people will say, “Well, Dumbo showed people are losing interest in live-action updates and the bad Genie CGI is going to hurt Aladdin’s chances.” But, really, Aladdin was doomed the day Disney said, “Memorial Day needs just one more chance to show its profitability, and squeezing Aladdin in on that date so close to Dumbo and Lion King certainly won’t prevent that from happening.” I mean, someone in scheduling needs to get fired. Some analysts even suggest a sub-$200 million total and if that happens then Hollywood hell really has broken loose.
I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m certainly hoping for the best, because I really am excited for this update and think Aladdin will be a visual feast worthy of the big screen experience. I’m not going to let early CGI work or fan outrage stop me from enjoying what I know will be a great time at the movies. You can cry about the Genie all you want or you can do you best to prepare for the magic carpet ride that awaits us. If you’re still reading this then you’ve already shown you have hope in what’s to come. So sit back, rub that lamp and get ready to make some wishes because we’re about to find 5 Ways to Prep for what I think will be one of the greatest Disney love-action updates to come out in a theater near you.
1) ALADDIN (1992)
If Disney is updating a classic animated movie then you should probably watch the original first, although I think it’s safe to say EVERYONE has seen Aladdin. You already know the poor guy gets a magic lamp with a genie that grants three wishes and he uses those gifts to win the affection of a princess. There’s a bad guy, a talking animal and enchanting music. It’s Disney, what do you expect?
As the trailers have shown, the live-action update seems to be pretty faithful to the original though we can definitely expect a few fun changes. We know Jasmine now has a human female friend and we know there will be some new songs. Watching the original isn’t so that you can see what Disney has done the same but rather what they’ve done different. One thing that should definitely change is the earnings, especially with over 25 years of inflation. Aladdin originally earned $217 million domestic and $504 million worldwide. Inflation brings the domestic up to $473 million. I wish I could expect that inflated total for the new update but who am I to argue with mostly accurate box office analytics? Keep in mind the sub-$300 million curse of Memorial Day. Sigh.
2) BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)
This is currently the reigning champ of Disney love-action updates. It’s not fair to expect every Disney update to debut with $175 million and earn $504 million with another $760 million internationally for a global total of $1.26 billion. Given the Memorial Day blues and early issues with race (jasmine isn’t Arab enough and Genie is just too blue!), Aladdin’s greatest achievement will be just topping $300 million. That alone would make it a wild success, since only three Disney remakes have done it (Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland). If most of these updates are earning between $200-350 million, maybe Beauty’s $500 million was a fluke. Maybe Emma Watson is more of a draw than I gave her credit for.
Regardless of what Beauty attained that Aladdin won’t, we’re still in for a decent hit. I feel like I said something similar last year with Solo. Yeah, ”only $200 million” is bad for Star Wars and one of Disney’s Big 3 animated films (Beauty, Aladdin, Lion King), but it’s average for Memorial Day and it’s still the biggest hit in the careers of much of its cast. It’s funny how a few early speed bumps and unfair, lofty expectations can seemingly cripple a film that other movies could only wish to be like. Pokémon and John Wick would love to get past $150 million but they probably won’t. A global mega brand like Pokémon has its “first $100+ million hit” and John Wick’s “franchise best reviews will carry it past $100 million,” but Aladdin is trash for maybe crawling past $200 million. I get it, I’m part of the problem because I stay home and rent movies too, but it pains me to see one of Disney’s best classic films get such an underwhelming Memorial Day relaunch.
3) SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)
It feels like most of these live-action updates get generic directors-for-hire instead of A-list names that stand on their own. Disney likes to keep their movies close to the chest and they don’t need some snobby director thinking they’re actually in charge. Aside from Tim Burton, who has gone from Alice’s $300+ million glory down to Dumbo’s $100+ million droppings, there hasn’t been a massive name behind the camera. Sure, Kenneth Branagh and Bill Condon have success under their belt but they aren’t widely known to the public for their blockbuster filmmaking. Well, move aside Tim Burton because we finally have another big name director.
Guy Ritchie has had a big yet rocky career. He’s got great films like Sherlock Holmes and Snatch, and then he’s got garbage films like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Swept Away. As I said, Sherlock Holmes is one of his best and the most comparable to what we can expect from Aladdin. Ritchie fully embraced the period and setting of Holmes, and trailers show Aladdin to be just as carefully detailed and grand in scale. Also, I remember Sherlock being quite the trickster and master of illusions, qualities Aladdin and the Genie will be sure to exploit in this new movies. Not to mention the earnings, which could mirror one another. Holmes made $209 million domestically and $524 million worldwide. Aladdin needs that much just to save face and if there’s any chance it breaks even at the box office.
4) SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)
Here’s the thing, if one of Hollywood’s more faded stars can join the cast one of of Hollywood’s most troubled brands and still churn out a $300+ million hit, why can’t the Aladdin update hit that milestone?! I mean, nobody spoke well of DC superhero movies in 2016 and nobody thought they’d see Will Smith again when After Earth bombed in 2013. But then Smith took a pay cut I guess and joined a super-anti-hero ensemble (which had terrible reviews) and somehow revamped via career with a $325 million hit. I’d like to say this gives me hope that Aladdin can cross the $300 million mark but it’s going to take more than just blind luck. It’s going to take incredible reviews.
Everyone is waiting to throw shade at Will Smith for taking on the role that was made iconic by the legendary Robin Williams. Nobody cares that the CGI of the blue Genie has become much better since the initial teaser trailer launched, and nobody cares that Will Smith has all the campy acting and musical chops to stand against Robin Williams. They just care that he’s NOT Robin Williams and that he was a bad shade of blue for a tiny moment in time a hundred years ago. Every time someone wants to trash Will Smith In Aladdin just remind them of Suicide Squad, and that even some terrible movies can make a boatload of cash. I’d like to think Smith’s celebrity is at least equal to Emma Watson and that Beauty and the Beast numbers are still in store but I’d be happy if we can at least get to Suicide Squad levels of success.
5) POWER RANGERS (2017)
Will Smith is obviously the big draw in Aladdin and all eyes will be on his performance, but other people are in the movie too. With only one recommendation left, I’m stuck with choosing between helping you get to the know the star playing either Aladdin or Jasmine. Well, I chose Jasmine. Aladdin is a poor street rat that nobody knows and Jasmine is the queen everyone is aware of. If the audience is like the townsfolk, then we should know Jasmine going into the story so that we can get to know the mysterious Aladdin along the way.
So let’s get to know Jasmine. The bad news is, fans expected an Arab actress to play the princess but instead got a half-Indian. The good news is, it’s Naomi Scott. Most people don’t know her because she is a budding starlet and 2019 will be her breakout year (she’s also in the new Charlie’s Angels reboot coming in November), but she’s already broken out in my heart. Oh yes, she was in a little movie in 2017 called Power Rangers and any fan of that franchise knows the Pink Ranger was destined to become famous. She was going to be gorgeous and it would be a true breakout role that would lead to many new opportunities. Well, that came to pass as even the film’s lackluster $85 million total couldn’t stop the Hollywood gods from seeing Pink turn to gold. That gig was relevant enough to help her land Aladdin and Charlie’s Angels for 2019, and if you don’t know her now you will by years end.
Will Jasmine’s beauty help turn Aladdin into a blockbuster? Will the Memorial Day beast tear down any hopes of a true breakout performance? Has the Genie’s woeful blues already ruined any chance of wishing for success? Or are analysts wrong and I’m right in assuming that Aladdin has the chance to be one of the biggest movies of the year? We’re not far from finding out the answers we seek and seeing if the Memorial Day curse can be broken. I’m sure if Aladdin had three wishes it would be for big numbers, great reviews and a sequel, although at this point having even just one wish granted would be enough to keep Disney happy until Lion King attacks injust two months time.