WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Disney's Aladdin, in theaters now.
In 1992's Aladdin, one of the biggest wow factors of the classic Disney movie was the heist in the Cave of Wonders. There, Jafar disguised himself as an old man and tricked Aladdin into stealing the lamp in return for riches so the "street rat" could impress Princess Jasmine.
While Guy Ritchie's remake follows a somewhat similar narrative (here, Jafar's not disguised, though), this modern take on the theft is one that far surpasses the animated flick, truly setting the film apart as an update that basks in the technological capabilities of modern cinema.
Don't get us wrong, the '92 scene was pretty awesome for its time. It was a riveting sequence of events, which gave us a dizzying 3D vibe as Al and Abu escaped the lava pits on Carpet after the cave began to collapse. But this time around, the reboot maximizes its use of CGI and, well, gives us a truly wondrous spectacle that feels as real as can be.
Here, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Abu have been hired by Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to steal the lamp after they were caught trespassing in the palace. It's either this or death, but to spice the deal up, Jafar offers riches too, a deal-sweetener Aladdin graciously accepts. The first thing that sets this new take apart on entering the cave is it actually feels like a cave, as opposed to a sand dune. The cavernous texture adds to its personality, truly making the cave a character, so when it invites Al in as "a diamond in the rough," putting him to the test, you can't help but feel intimidated by the mammoth structure.
To add to that, when Al and Abu enter, they're skipping rocks floating in mid-air, which feels like something from the cosmic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As they get deeper in exploring the treasures, it then becomes a hunt a la Indiana Jones, The Goonies and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The best part, as expected, comes when Abu tinkers with a red jewel, causing the vindictive cave to collapse to ensure the scoundrels won't see the "light of day" again. Abu doesn't just gravitate to any random gem like the old movie, though, as one falls thanks to Aladdin's crawl up to the lamp. When it falls and spins, its mesmerizing motion is what woos Abu, who sadly gets mistaken as a thief trying to grab the gem.
Ritchie then kicks the movie into high gear, because, as the lava pits emerge and dissolve the rocks, you really feel like Al, Abu and the Carpet they found are inside a volcano. The special effects here as the heroes go leaping and flying to their safety throws cinemagoers back to scenes from The Lord of the Ring's Mount Doom and Star Wars' Mustafar.
As the trio mount Carpet, dashing in and around the cave at breakneck speeds, the 3D action delight is off the charts thanks to the sharp angles and quick, harrowing turns. It really feels like a technically superb roller coaster ride, physically and emotionally, further ramped up when they reconnect with Jafar, lamp in tow.
There, instead of pulling a blade on the heroes, Jafar steps on Al's hands and shoves him to his death below, only for Carpet to rescue the street urchin and Abu. Luckily, in this subterranean prison, the monkey reveals he stole the lamp, thus introducing them to the Genie (Will Smith), who'd take them topside. But as Genie admits before they leave, this cave really is a wonder based on its design and the intricate traps it secretly possesses.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin stars Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Will Smith as Genie, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, Navid Negahban as the Sultan of Agrabah, Billy Magnussen as new character Prince Anders, and Frank Welker and Alan Tudyk as the voices of Abu and Iago, respectively. The film is in theaters now.