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Snakes in Movies
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Snakes in Movies
 
Aladdin (2019)
 
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
 
This is a live-action remake of Disney's animated Aladdin (1992) starring Will Smith as the genie, Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Naomi Scott as princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari as the Sultan's snake-loving evil grand vizier, Jafar. Disney went to great lengths to update the original movie to show a more accurate portrayal of Middle-eastern culture and use more ethnically-appropriate casting. (There was some backlash to casting Will Smith for reasons I don't understand, because he is great in the role.) They also continue their female-empowerment crusade by giving Jasmine a more important role, and allowing her to become the first female Sultan.

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Even though there are no real snakes in the movie, we do see a live cobra created by CGI, and lots of decorative depictions of cobras throughout the movie, most notably, Jafar's cobra staff. (The animated Jafar also used a cobra staff for magic and hypnotism, but his staff was more like a weapon - shooting smoke and lightning out of its open mouth. Jafar's staff in this movie is more suble most of the time.) Jafar's room in the palace is also full of cobra sculptures, and later, when he has taken over the palace, cobras appear as decorations in the palace. We see them on the throne, on furniture, lamps, and fountains. Unfortunately, the cobras on the staffs and decorations have open mouths with two fangs in front, which real cobras do not have.

Each of the main characters has an animal sidekick - Aladdin has a monkey, Jasmin has a tiger, and Jafar has a parrot, but in his hand at all times is also a tall magic staff with the head and body of a cobra. Jafar is scheming to overthrow the Sultan, and he uses magic from the cobra staff to hypnotize the Sultan to convince him do what he wants. The cobra's head and hood are green, but when he uses it to hypnotize the Sultan, it glows red. Jafar's eyes also change color during the hypnotism.

Aladdin discovers that Jafar is hypnotizing the Sultan with the cobra staff, so he smashes the staff on the ground and explains the situation to the Sultan. Without his magic staff, Jafar has no power, so he is sent to prison. But he escapes and steals the magic lamp, then uses the genie's powers to become Sultan. As the genie makes him Sultan, the decoration of the palace changes, becoming darker, and decorated with cobras. (Since the genie made the changes, maybe the snakes are his comment on the character of the new Sultan.) Jafar sits on a throne decorated with cobras and we see cobras on lamps. When Jasmine convinces the head of security not to recognize Jafar as Sultan, Jafar uses his second wish to ask the genie to make him the most powerful sorcerer in the world. When that happens, the palace gets even darker with even more cobra decorations. The fountain, formerly covered with flowers, becomes a bed of giant black cobras.

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Jafar is still without a staff. As he sits on the throne, we see a large cobra crawl on the floor then rise up into his hand where it stiffens into a staff even more elaborate than the staff Aladdin smashed. The new staff is red but it glows even brighter red when Jafar uses it for magic. Its head, mouth, and tongue move as if the cobra is alive. The Sultan tells Jafar he's nothing without his staff and throws it off the balcony, but it rises back into Jafar's hand.

Finally, when Jafar is defeated, the genie changes the palace back to its original state. We see the snake decorations and the fountain return to normal, and the palace is once again bright and colorful.

The transformation to Jafar's dark palace then back to the colorful palace is apparent on first viewing, but the snakes are mostly background details that add to the feel of the action and are not meant to be highlighted as I'm doing here. Many viewers probably weren't aware of them. I only noticed some of the snake details when I went back and watched the scenes again. (Disney's art designers are very good and they're often subtle. Other details I missed at first were the genie's boat being shaped like his lamp and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air references made by Will Smith's genie and the magic carpet, and there are certainly more Easter eggs I missed.)

  Aladdin