One of this year’s most highly anticipated movies is on the verge of arrival—The Little Mermaid. The long-awaited premiere has generated a multitude of opinions from critics, creating a diverse landscape on Twitter. Responses to the film have ranged from effusive praise, hailing it as one of Disney’s finest live-action adaptations, to expressions of disappointment. While a section of viewers commended the film for its captivating and faithful retelling of the beloved story, there were those who voiced their reservations, labeling it as unnecessary and devoid of originality.
Under the direction of Rob Marshall, known for his work on Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns and Into the Woods, The Little Mermaid takes the spotlight. Clocking in at over two hours, the film is scheduled for release on May 26. Forecasts point to a promising start, with a $110 million (£87 million) opening weekend, Deadline reports.
Amidst the varying opinions, critics have unanimously lauded the film’s talented ensemble cast. Leading the pack is Halle Bailey, who flawlessly portrays Ariel, effectively silencing the voices of those who initially questioned her casting. Through Disney’s preview materials, we have already witnessed the sheer magic of Bailey’s performance, especially as she breathes life into iconic songs like “Part of Your World.” Her captivating voice and delivery were bound to enchant viewers. Yet, Bailey is not the sole performer who has captivated audiences. The star-studded lineup includes Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, each bringing their own undeniable charm to the screen.
Nevertheless, there were those who expressed disappointment, claiming that the film lacked novelty and innovation, relying heavily on the nostalgia of the original. Criticism extended to the visual effects and fantasy elements, with some labeling them as “creaky” and “limited.” Particularly, the transition of beloved characters like Sebastian and Flounder into live-action drew mixed reactions, as their too-realistic animation seemed to have diminished some of their previous enchantment. This has led to a prevailing concern among viewers that the outcome might resemble the reception of the film Cats, a memory still fresh in everyone’s minds.
But let’s not overlook the remarkable music. The film’s soundtrack is a collaboration between Lin-Manuel Miranda, the brilliant writer of Hamilton, and Alan Menken, the original Oscar-winning composer of The Little Mermaid. Paying homage to the 1989 classic, the soundtrack includes beloved songs such as “Under The Sea,” “Kiss The Girl,” and “Part Of Your World.”
Miranda, known for his musical prowess in Hamilton and Encanto, was enlisted to craft new musical numbers specifically for the remake. Furthermore, to reflect contemporary sensibilities, certain iconic songs from The Little Mermaid’s soundtrack underwent lyrical changes to emphasize consent in the forthcoming live-action adaptation. Alan Menken shared in an interview with Vanity Fair, “There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have become very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel].” The original songs in the 1989 soundtrack were written by the late Howard Ashman and composed by Menken, who now collaborates with producer Lin-Manuel Miranda to create new music and reimagine timeless melodies.
While initial skepticism surrounded the release of The Little Mermaid, early reactions to the movie have largely been positives, especially regarding Halle Bailey’s exceptional protrayal of Ariel. This is what Felicia Wade from DiscussingFilm or Kathia Woods collaborator of Digital Spy, said on their Twitter account.
However, Courtney Howard and Simon Thompson, who have worked for publications such as Forbes and Variety, believe the film has its ups and downs.
With a wave of Disney remakes inundating audiences in recent years, it has become increasingly challenging for viewers to anticipate the outcome of each new release. Despite numerous attempts, the live-action adaptations have fallen short of matching the brilliance of their animated predecessors. As The Little Mermaid emerges, its triumph or disappointment will serve as a pivotal moment for Disney, shaping the trajectory of its future projects.