Grading Disney’s live-action remakes

Some remakes are stunning, others are just meh


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

DIsney’s remakes draw mixed reactions from fans.

Emily Bebenek, Staff Writer

1I’m back and — you’ve guessed it — I’m here to share my unsolicited opinions on movies. This time, I’m taking a stab at the good old world-dominating Disney, who has released and bought so many franchises that I’d have to enroll in a statistics class to be interested in counting them all. Despite my disgust for their near-monopolization, those suckers have got me good when it comes to cheesy movies, especially with all of the live-action remakes of Disney classics. I’m prepared to rant about all of them, but in the interest of fairness, I’m going to stick to the remakes that followed approximately the same plot as their original movie.

Cinderella (2015)

First up is the iconic “Cinderella,” and while I’m not overly fanatic about the original, I love the remake. First of all, Richard Madden *swoon*. Second of all, the costumes, special effects and sets are beyond incredible. The dress is much more beautiful than in the animated version, and the settings are beautiful and relevant to the plot without being overly distracting. While the special effects are good, they didn’t overdo it, which I’m grateful for. I also love the music, especially the sweet and beautiful track “Courage and Kindness,” which plays right near the ending. 

The biggest positive of this movie is the incredible casting. Lily James as Cinderella, the aforementioned heartthrob Madden as the Prince, Helena Bonham Carter as Fairy Godmother and, perhaps the best of all, Cate Blanchett, who killed it as the Evil Stepmother. James and Madden have incredible chemistry and a more realistic buildup to their romance than any other Disney couple (as in they meet more than once before falling in love). Every time I rewatch this, I feel the same giddiness and excitement, and I highly recommend it. 1000/10

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Next is “Beauty and the Beast.” The obvious positives are the special effects and the soundtrack, the latter of which adds two musical numbers that still dominate on my playlists (seriously, listen to “Days in the Sun” and “Evermore” if you get the chance). Emma Watson as Belle is also iconic but is almost outshone by Josh Gad as LeFou and Luke Evans as Gaston, who have the best chemistry and banter in their scenes together (a favorite Disney duo). 

Like “Cinderella,” the sets and costumes were amazing, and I appreciated how the film incorporated some historical accuracy by mentioning the Black Plague. I loved this movie, but it just didn’t hit quite as hard as “Cinderella.” Maybe because there’s a spot in one of Belle’s songs where you can sort of tell Watson is using autotune, or maybe because there just wasn’t really as much of a spark between Belle and the Beast. It’s still a 10/10, but it doesn’t make me swoon.

The Lion King (2019)

I don’t know how to feel about this one, probably because, unlike the rest, the original was pretty much perfect. Yes, the CGI and voice acting were great, but I don’t know how to feel about the entire movie being CGI. Was it cool? Yes. Was it necessary? No. It was kind of weird adjusting to the characters without anthropomorphizing their features. Rafiki, Timon and Pumbaa were especially hard to get used to. I think this was because it was harder for their facial features to show emotion compared to human features, while the lions looked relatively the same as the original and were easy to interpret. 

Another off-put was the singing, which was a definite downgrade from the original. However, I think that the biggest disadvantage was that the remake was made to look realistic, which meant that there was a lot less color and vividity than in the original. This made it less engaging, especially in the “Hakuna Matata” sequence, where one of the best characteristics differentiating the jungle from the savannah was the explosion of bright colors in the original movie. I appreciate the realism and talent that went into this, but I think I’ll stick with the original. 8/10

Mulan (2020)

I honestly don’t know if I should even include this one because it definitely veers off-plot, but I’m going to because it sticks to relatively the same conflicts. Let’s start with what I love — I am obsessed with the witch. She is the epitome of a badass queen, especially with her chain-mail dress and war crown. She is a literal icon — and the fact that she can shapeshift? It’s the best part of the movie, and I don’t care if she’s a villain, she deserves to win. 

I liked the parallel between Mulan and the witch. Both were discriminated against because of their gender and rose despite it, but while Mulan chose the “good” side, the witch chose the “bad” side. However, the lingering misogyny at the end of the movie still irritates me. I also, again, love the lack of white-washing. Finally, the soundtrack is amazing, with “Loyal Brave True” by Christina Aguilera also on my playlist. 

Here’s the thing though — once again, there is a total lack of chemistry between the main character and the love interest, and this one takes the cake. It’s even more disappointing because Mulan and Li Shang had arguably the best chemistry out of all the original Disney couples with realistic and cute awkwardness and an actual friendship on which to base their relationship. The failure on the romance front exasperates me, because why even include the love interest if their relationship isn’t a vital part of the movie? Ugh. And they had the potential to be even cuter because her live-action love interest is a common soldier like her. This mess-up is pretty much unforgivable, but the rest of the movie was really good. 8/10

Aladdin (2019)

Ooh, this one’s tough. Objectively, I love it for most of the same reasons: on-point sets, costumes, special effects and acting (I especially appreciate the casting directors not white-washing or using big-name actors for Aladdin and Jasmine). I also did like some of the slight changes, like (spoiler!) making Jasmine the Sultan instead of Aladdin (yay feminism!), but similar to “Beauty and the Beast,” it just didn’t have the same feel as it should. 

While I absolutely love the romance between Genie and Dalia (Jasmine’s handmaiden), the fact that they had better chemistry and banter than the headline couple was disappointing. In fact, Dalia and Genie were probably my favorite characters, which again is an obvious sign that Disney could have done better. I would still rewatch it but with no unintentional squealing over the romance (except maybe a little for Dalia and Genie). 7/10

Well, that’s my list. Hit me up if you want a Disney remake marathon (but we’ll be using your Disney+ account). I’m Emily, and you’ve been reading the OGB. *cue Disney wand drawing*