Disney is continuing its ruthless resurrection of classic animated stories with its new live-action take on Aladdin, the beloved rags-to-riches tale of a street urchin who is befriended by a genie. The remake is set to be directed by the British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, known for brooding gangster thrillers like Snatch and the Sherlock Holmes film franchise.
Ritchie tapped relative unknowns to play Aladdin and Jasmine: the 27-year-old Canadian actor Mena Massoud, of Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, and 25-year-old British actress Naomi Scott from the 2017 Power Rangers reboot. But the film’s most iconic character, Genie, will be played by Hollywood royalty—the actor, rapper, and social media star Will Smith.
Smith has big shoes to fill. Disney’s 1992 Arabian Nights-inspired classic was a box office hit, and Robin Williams’ tongue-in-cheek Genie is a deeply beloved character. Smith, who got his start onscreen as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and has helmed blockbusters from Independence Day to Enemy of the State, told Entertainment Weekly that he plans to “deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different,” suggesting he would introduce “hip-hop flavor” into the role. One Disney executive allegedly described his Genie “as part Fresh Prince, part Hitch.”
A first look at images from the film, released by Disney in Entertainment Weekly today (Dec. 19), is already provoking some strong reactions online.
Twitter, unsurprisingly, had plenty to say about the costuming in particular, with most of the heat directed at Smith’s ropy ponytail and long goatee. (Ritchie told Entertainment Weekly that his vision for the character was “a muscular 1970s dad…not so muscular that he looked like he was counting his calories, but formidable enough to look like you knew when he was in the room.”):
Some expressed disappointment that Smith is not blue in the preview images, although he has said on Instagram that he will be, and that his character will include CGI effects. (No word yet on whether he will hover in the air.)
A photoshopped version that depicts Smith as blue is also circulating, with plenty of reasonable comparisons to James Cameron’s Avatar:
Others were upset about Jasmine and Aladdin’s Disney Land-esque costuming. In addition to skipping Aladdin’s trademark fez, many took issue with Aladdin’s basic bro look, which includes a shirt and what appears to be a light thermal vest: