Aladdin Director Guy Ritchie Responds To The Genie Backlash

Will Smith as the Genie in Aladdin

Aladdin is one of Disney's most popular animated features, so anticipation and curiosity were at a high when the first looks at the new live-action adaptation began to arrive. However, the first responses to Will Smith's Genie weren't all that excited. There was a general feeling that he actually looked pretty terrible.

Guy Ritchie, the director of the new Aladdin, appears to have been mostly surprised by the reaction, simply because the sort of instant feedback that the internet provides wasn't something he was used to. According to Ritchie...

There was a Sonic The Hedgehog / Genie frog. Everything is under such critical scrutiny. I came up in an era where there was no internet. It’s a new thing that I’m trying to get a handle on.

I feel like the comparison between the Genie and the recent Sonic the Hedgehog trailer is a bit rough. The Genie may have had some issues, but he was no Sonic. People may have not loved Genie, but the Sega mascot's look in the new movie got such backlash the producers are now promising to make changes.

Guy Ritchie is no stranger to making movies in the age of the internet but he's never made a movie quite like Aladdin. It's a movie with a built in fan base that's very invested and is going to be very vocal about its opinions. It's a far cry from the stylized English gangster movies that Ritchie is still best known for.

And the audience was far from kind. "Nightmare fuel" and other such phrases were used to describe what the big blue Genie version of Will Smith looked like. Big movies like this rely on the buzz that the marketing creates but that plan only works if the buzz is positive, and in this case it wasn't.

However, as the new Aladdin continued it's promotion. Attitudes seemed to soften a bit. While the big blue Genie still isn't looked at in the best light, we know that the Genie won't have that look the entire time and other aspects of the movie were looking good enough that the questionable CGI might be easy to overlook.

In addition, as is frequently the case. Not all the CGI was even finished when the first trailer hit, which meant that as those effects were finished up, the Genie himself began to look better. Guy Ritchie tells Empire than now even some of those who were the harshest critics of the Genie are walking back their comments...

It even came with apologies from the cynics who were so adamant initially. I’ve never seen apologies in that world. I thought, ‘Oh well, great, we’re back to where I’d hoped we’d be’.

The History Of The Color Changing Genie

It does seem like the new Aladdin can't catch a break in the Genie department. The first look we ever got of Will Smith in costume he wasn't blue at all. He was just Will Smith in a Genie costume, and that set people off because of the way it seemed to be changing the source material. Then, when we finally got Will Smith in action in his first trailer, he was blue, and everybody freaked out again.

It seems that the plan for the film is that the Genie will spend a significant amount of time looking human in the new film rather than blue. This way the character can blend in with the rest of the players and interact with them rather than spending the entire movie locked in the lamp. It also helps the budget for the movie stay down.

If you haven't had a good look at what the Genie, and the movie as a whole, looks like now, check out the trailer below.

It makes a lot of sense to include a lot of Will Smith, blue or not. Robin Williams worked for scale when he recorded his voice for the original Aladdin and I'm guessing Will Smith did not. If you're paying him millions of dollars, you'll want to get everything out hf him that you can.

The earliest reactions from the few who have seen the new Aladdin have actually been pretty positive, and while the blue Genie might not work, it seems like the rest of the movie works well enough to make up for that.

The Aladdin Remake Was Always Going To Have Problems

The deck was always stacked against the Genie. The casting of Will Smith seemed designed to attempt to prevent any Robin Williams comparisons before they started, and yet, such a thing is ultimately impossible. Williams' Genie is one of the most iconic characters in the history of animation. His casting in the role played a huge part in the fact that most animated films are now cast with big Hollywood stars.

It's a difficult balancing act. As with any remake, there are elements that fans love from the original that they'll want to see translated into live-action, or re-done with modern effects or whatever new thing the remake is trying to bring to the table. Some will be disappointed if they don't get a new and improved version of whatever their favorite bit was.

Unfortunately, it has to be said that, so far, the movie looks very much like a "shot-for-shot" remake of the animated version. In fact, only Will Smith's Genie looks to be a significant change from the original animated classic. While bringing back all the old songs and adding a couple new ones certainly makes sense, I'm certainly hopeful that there's more hiding in this movie that is different compared to what we've seen so far.

At the same time, if all you're really doing is making the same movie over again, then why bother. The original is a classic because everybody has already seen it, and they can watch it again on DVD anytime they want.

I'll be entering the new Aladdin the way I do most movies these days, with cautious optimism. I want every movie I see to be good and Aladdin is one of those movies that I loved as a kid, and I want any remake to be good as well. If the new movie brings something actually new to the story that can make it worthwhile in its own right, that would fantastic.

The new Aladdin hits theaters Friday.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.