Darcie takes a retrospective look back at Disney‘s divisive live-action remakes
Over the past ten years, Disney has been providing us with live-action remakes of their classic animated movies. Remakes are nothing new, studios do it all the time. But these Disney remakes have been met with both box office success and criticism from those who would prefer original content. So, I thought I would take a little look at all the live-action Disney remakes of the last ten years. I will be offering my opinion on these films so it is likely we will have different favorites, but I wanted to share my experiences with these films.
Alice in wonderland 2010 | Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016
Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland kicked off the live-action trend at Disney. Burton’s version saw an adult Alice return to Wonderland, offering us a different story full of gothic tropes and fantastical visuals. This film is probably my favorite on this list. I love the almost romantic dynamic between Alice and The Hatter, the visuals and score are beautiful, and the characters bring the narrative to life. Sadly, Burton did not return to direct the 2016 sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and it is a weaker film because of this. The visual style was lacking, and The Hatter seemed like a different character which ruined the dynamic with Alice. It is still an enjoyable watch but what made the first film so enticing is missing.
Maleficent 2014 | Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2019
When Maleficent was released in 2014 I honestly did not consider it to be part of the Disney live-action remake line up. I know it is a live-action version of the 1959 animation, but it just felt different. I think that Maleficent is the weakest film on this list, the pacing was off, the characters felt flat and the narrative was disappointing. Plus, they made Maleficent less of a villain which is sad considering she is seen as Disney’s most famous and evil villain. Five years later Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was released. This sequel is certainly better, the pacing of the film feels better, and the characters feel more developed. Whilst these films have some redeeming elements, they fall short of the high standard set by the other remakes.
The 2015 Cinderella is by far the most beautiful remake. Every set, prop, and costume is divine, and the blue ball gown is incredibly dreamy and by far the best live-action costume. The production value of this film set the standard for the future Disney Princess remakes. Narrative wise this film is pretty much the same as the original, however, the slight changes make it still feel fresh and exciting. The lack of songs is sad especially when you hear the songs they did record. I love this film; it is certainly in my top five.
The Jungle Book 2016
Over the years there have been countless remakes of The Jungle Book, but this one stands out. Although the narrative is pretty much the same as the original animation the visuals are what make the 2016 film a success. It is a showcase of what Disney can do with technology. The film uses CGI and motion capture to create a realistic, emotional, and beautiful film. A great voice cast and the talented child actor Neel Sethi bring the characters to life in a way no other Jungle Book adaptations have. This is the most visually impressive Disney remake.
Beauty and the Beast 2017
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Beauty and the Beast; Belle is my least favorite Disney princess. But I went into the 2017 remake with an open mind, however, it is still one of my least favorite remakes. The props are beautiful and Lumiere and Cogsworth are brilliant in design and brilliantly acted. Gaston is my favorite character; he is so compelling his songs are performed so perfectly and professionally. But Belle lacks excitement and her songs are over autotuned. The film adds additional scenes that seemed out of place. I do however like the added depth of the curse, such as the town forgetting about their prince and the witch showing up throughout. This film has some glimmers of greatness but the lackluster performance by Emma Watson makes this film a disappointment.
Christopher Robin 2018
What could be cuter than a Winnie-The-Pooh movie – a live-action Winnie-The-Pooh movie. I did not know I needed this film but I’m so glad Disney made it. The CGI version of Winnie-The-Pooh and the other inhabitants of the 100-acre woods is brilliant, they look like alive stuffed animals. However, at times Pooh does come across as a little creepy. This film is full of heart and highlights the importance of childhood. If you want a cold rainy afternoon film then Christopher Robin should be your go-to movie.
Tim Burton’s second edition to the live-action movies. Dumbo is full of Burton’s traditional visual style, from gothic imagery to the use of swirls. But what makes this live-action remake stand out is the difference in narrative. Whilst the central plot points are kept – Dumbo is born with large ears, he is separated from his mother, learns to fly, and performs at a circus – the rest of the narrative has been altered. The film is socially conscious and promotes brilliant animal freedom. The score is beautiful throughout and adds to the overtly emotional narrative. Whilst some did not take to this remake because of Burton’s style, if you are a Burton fan or looking for a beautiful and emotive film then Dumbo is for you. It is certainly in my top five.
There is just something so infectious about 2019’s Aladdin. I never expected a Disney princess live-action remake directed by Guy Richie to be so brilliant. The film has a high production level we have come to expect at this point, the film looks bright and exciting. The scene where Prince Ali arrives should be turned into a Disney park parade. The jam jokes are hilarious. Will Smith’s genie steals the show, but the whole cast is great. This film is the perfect mix of light-hearted fun and tense darkness, a balance that can be hard to create. Slight changes were made to the narrative, the changes around Jasmin modernize the film and make it feel fresh and inspirational. When I want a fun movie night this film is my go too.
The Lion King 2019
The 2019 remake of The Lion King remake is often considered the most pointless of the Disney live-action remakes and I understand why. The narrative is pretty much the same, the characters are the same and the songs are the same. However, this film is visually stunning in the same way The Jungle Book is. However, unlike The Jungle Book, it was hard to connect with the characters which makes it a little boring to watch. There are some great things about this movie, the voice cast, the Beauty and the Beast reference, and the realistic quality of the CGI. Disney plan to make a sequel, let’s just hope it is more substance than style.
Lady and the Tramp 2019
Lady and the Tramp is the only Disney Live-action film that was made to release on Disney Plus. I have to admit I have only seen this film once, so would need to watch again to be able to properly evaluate it. With that being said this is a cute film overall, if you are a dog lover then the cuteness will make you an instant fan. The narrative is very similar to the original but not in a bad way as it is still engaging. The film once again showcases the animal CGI we have become familiar with. I can see why this film was not intended to be a cinema release, not because it’s a bad film but because it is a simple film that is meant to be experienced in the comfort of your own home.
Sadly, the Mulan live-action remake did not get its cinematic release, a release it truly deserved. This remake is so different from the original film, key characters have been cut, the musical numbers are no more, and the film has a serious rather than whimsical tone. The film is beautiful, narratively it knows how to breathe, the story is compelling and full of feminist power. Sadly, this adaptation was portrayed as a historically and culturally accurate film which we have since learned is not the case. However, I connected to this film in a way I haven’t connected to any of the other remakes. This film was made for the big screen, with epic battle sequences and wide sweeping shots, I hope that at some point we will get the opportunity to watch it on the big screen. Mulan will be available for free with your Disney Plus subscription on December the 4th.
The Disney Live-Action remakes have all been very different but the one thing they have in common is financial success. Which means there are many more live-action remakes to come. Cruella is in post-production, The Little Mermaid is set to begin production soon, and Hercules is among the others in pre-production. So get ready for more Disney magic.
Which Disney live-action remake gets your vote as the best? Leave a comment below.
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Darcie Gray is a regular contributor to The Future of the Force. Aside from being a passionate Star Wars fan, she loves every genre of movies and she channels her passion for film into her blog Just Another Film Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Darcie_Letitia where she shares her love of film regularly.