The live-action remake of The Little Mermaid directed by Rob Marshall shows great respect for the original animated classic by expanding on its story rather than reinventing it. While the new film has fresh ideas, it closely follows the beats of the 1989 film and is clearly made with long-time fans in mind. However, the film is an example of how VFX-heavy features can feel unmagical when the fictional world lacks consistent rules. The film is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale and tells the story of Ariel, a curious and adventurous mermaid who is fascinated by humans and often clashes with her family’s wishes.
Unlike the 1989 version, the new film uses Ariel’s mother’s death at the hands of humans to explain Triton’s fear and distrust of humans. While the new film seems to lack realism compared to other aquatic films, the animation team did an excellent job of animating Ariel’s hair and musical numbers underwater. Unfortunately, the inconsistent way light behaves underwater and the unable sound design make the underwater scenes feel like a well-miced soundstage. Additionally, Ariel’s near-tearful emotions break the fantasy of her being a mermaid.
The new film’s land scenes are stronger, but the chemistry between Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King is average, which makes it challenging to believe the romance between Prince Eric and Ariel. The music is disjointed and does not guide the film, making it difficult to consider it a proper musical. However, the film is reflective of Disney’s plan to make these live-action remakes while retaining the essence of the originals to appeal to both fans and children.
In conclusion, The Little Mermaid live-action remake expands on the original story with excellent animation, but lacks consistency and fails to bring the same level of wonder as other aquatic films. While the film has its issues, it will undoubtedly appeal to fans and children of the original animated classic.