“Moving, powerful and beautiful” are the three words acclaimed visionary director Rob Marshall uses to describe Disney’s new live-action The Little Mermaid.
Well-known for musical films such as Into the Woods, Nine and Chicago, there was never any doubt that Marshall was a good choice to take on the challenge of directing a live-action reimaging of Disney classic The Little Mermaid, inspired by the tale written by Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson.
The live-action screenplay written by David Magee (The School for Good and Evil) sets the story in the 1830s in and around the waters of an imaginary island in the Caribbean. Ariel (played by Halle Bailey) is an 18-year-old mermaid and the youngest daughter of King Triton (played amazingly by Javier Bardem). Ariel is fascinated by the human world, collecting human artifacts from shipwrecks, despite her father forbidding all merfolk to interact with humans and their world.
One night, Ariel swims to the surface and comes upon a ship operated by the adventurous Prince Eric (played by Jonah Hauer-King), who she rescues when a storm destroys their ship. When King Triton discovers what Ariel did, he smashes her collections of human treasures making Ariel more determined to go to the human world. She makes a dangerous deal with the sea witch, Ursula (played by Melissa McCarthy), to trade her voice for human legs so she can discover the world above and impress the prince.
“You can’t really take everything from the animated film and put it onscreen,” Marshall tells Supanova. “You take the iconic bits and pieces that are the strength of what the beautiful tale is. At the same time, you have sort of have to step back and be able to see it as a reimagining. And that really was my goal: How do we make this a fuller experience? How can we make it a deeper experience, more emotional and broader, like all the things you can do with a live-action film.”
With the original music composer, Alan Menken, song lyricist and producer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights and Hamilton), and producer John DeLuca (Mary Poppins Returns) part of Marshall’s team, he was able to pay homage to the animated classic, while also adding more depth to characters such as Prince Eric, who we learn more about in the new film than we did in the original offering.
After four and half years of working on this film, Marshall and his team succeed in immersing the audience into Ariel’s underwater world as well as Eric’s above-water world. The film paints a clear picture of Ariel’s motives and showcases that their connection isn’t superficial but simply that of two kindred spirits connected by their curiosity to explore and gain knowledge about the world on land.
“The thing that guided me the whole time I was working on the movie was the meaning of the film,” Marshall explains. “I loved that it breaks down prejudice between worlds; that’s why Ariel goes on this journey. She doesn’t feel like she fits in herself. She feels displaced and goes on this journey to break down the prejudice between these worlds and build a bridge. And I thought it’s so timely to me, you know, not being afraid of people that are different than you.”
Songs play a key role in many Disney classics, and Halle Bailey shines in her portrayal of Ariel; her goosebump-inducing performance of Part of Your World proves she is perfect for this role. Known for comedic roles, McCarthy laces her sarcastic manner into the villainous Ursula, and may surprise the audience with her extravagant theatrical rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls.
Daveed Diggs (Snowpiercer, Hamilton) as Sebastian, the crab, performs to the calypso track of Under the Sea with interjected vocals from Bailey in a new twist in the track. Joining Diggs is Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) as Scuttle, the diving seabird, and Jacob Tremblay (Luca) as Flounder to perform an entertaining version of Kiss the Girl with the memorable boat scene.
A tremendously diverse, talented cast and memorable songs create a fun retelling of this tale that the younger generation will grow up on and love for years to come.
‘The Little Mermaid’ is in cinemas now