“You Stumbled Upon An Opportunity. I Can Make You Rich. Rich Enough To Impress A Princess…”
Acting as the second Disney backed money making exercise of the year so far, with the likes of The Lion King and Lady and the Tramp still to come, Aladdin follows hotly in the footsteps of the critically trashed and solidified box office bomb, Dumbo, by once again “treating” audiences to a live-action “reimagining” of the 1992 animated classic of the same name which to many, is the ultimate Disney adventure thanks to its’ outrageously memorable and Academy Award winning soundtrack and of course, the iconic dulcet tones of the late, great Robin Williams as Genie. With Aladdin circa 2019 therefore, the transition from animation to live action brings in the cinematic enigma that is Guy Ritchie (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as director, a bold and overly baffling decision considering the Brit’s recent back catalogue, and whilst sometimes such clashes bring forth works of brilliance, it comes at no surprise that Ritchie’s take on the animated classic begs the question yet again of why such a remake is necessary in the first place, and whilst Aladdin does feature some interesting and well orchestrated set pieces, all the positive elements seem to be those cherry picked from the original to an uncanny exactness with the tacked on additions only damaging a picture which falls into the same category as Dumbo; absolutely pointless.
With an opening forty minute act which ranks almost as mind numbingly dull as that seen within Dumbo, the screenplay from Ritchie and John August (Dark Shadows, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) swiftly introduces us to the main players of the piece, with Mena Massoud (Jack Ryan) handed down the titular lead role as the kind hearted, street rat who soon falls deep in love with the glowing beauty of Naomi Scott’s (Power Rangers) Princess Jasmine, and whilst Scott undoubtedly has talent to burn, singing voice and all, it’s ironically Massoud who nearly sinks the ship completely, with his performance devoid of all charisma or charm and supported by a vocal capacity which challenges Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! for worst contemporary evidence of on-screen karaoke. With the first act almost sending me to sleep, I almost resorted to prayer at the sight of Will Smith (Bad Boys, Independence Day) as he finally marks his appearance on the big screen, and whilst his own take on Genie is undoubtedly a cross between the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Nicolas Cage after snorting contaminated cocaine in Mandy, the remaining eighty minutes seem to be no longer directed by Ritchie at all, with the film’s choreographer instead enhancing the movie into a pretty fun ride, albeit one seen exactly before in the 1992 version, but with the noose already tightened and added inclusions which really don’t work and only seek to stretch out the already tired runtime, Aladdin is fine but pointless and a remake which just happens to have Will Smith as the clear ace in the pack.
Overall Score: 5/10
“Nineteen Men Attacked Our Country. The Twelve Of You Will Be The First To Fight Back…”
Growing up throughout the late 1990’s and the early 20th century, whenever the name, Jerry Bruckheimer, appeared on the opening credits of a movie, my action loving, adrenaline fuelled teenage mind would jump in extended joy at the knowledge that what lay ahead was an eye-watering level of action and adventure which had me sold from the word, go. Whether it be The Rock, Bad Boys or Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, the standardised Bruckheimer release tends to consist of hyperbolic explosions, rugged leading heroes, and of course, guns, lots of guns, and what we have with 12 Strong, the directorial debut of Swedish filmmaker, Nicolai Fuglsig, is indeed a movie which confines strictly to such a model with a steady degree of success. Set directly after the events of 9/11, 12 Strong follows Chris Hemsworth’s (Thor) inexperienced Captain Mitch Nelson as he leads his titular team of warriors into the heart of Afghanistan in order to broaden alliances with Navid Negahban’s (American Assassin) General Abdul Rashid Dostum and strike back against the threat of the Taliban, personified by Numan Acar’s (The Great Wall) murderous leader, Razzan.
Based upon Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers”, Fuglsig’s movie is full to the brim with mechanical, macho mayhem with notions about the price of war and the effect of 9/11 on the wider world simply glanced at in favour of endless action set pieces and somewhat cliched, emotionally manipulative character development. Thankfully for the first-time director however, the sheer spectacle and scale of the aforementioned action presented on-screen is surprisingly well done, with the mixture of well-tempered violence and sound design managing to inflict a rigorous amount of tension, and even when it becomes somewhat easy to giggle at witnessing a tight muscled Chris Hemsworth riding into battle upon a horse in a War for the Planet of the Apes-esque manner, 12 Strong doesn’t ever become too mindless to lose its’ audience completely. With a ensemble cast featuring the likes of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Michael Peña (End of Watch) and Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, the chemistry between the band of brothers is solidly captured, and whilst the film does seem at least twenty minutes too long, with a sense of familiarity and repetitiveness hanging over it come the concluding act, Fuglsig’s first shot at Hollywood is entertaining enough, and even with a ridiculously bald William Fichtner, 12 Strong is the type of Bruckheimer release I would have drooled over as a child, explosions and all. Bring the popcorn.