The New 'Little Mermaid' Could Be So Dark

by Amen Oyiboke

When the original Little Mermaid animated film hit the big screen in 1989, it became an instant classic. Many years later, I still get nostalgic for the movie, especially now that there's a live-action Little Mermaid coming out later this year. Judging from the trailer, the film looks like it'll be very different than the version of the Disney fairy tale we all know and love, with more of the original Hans Christian Andersen story coming into play. And that means it'll likely be a very dark Little Mermaid, which, while interesting, makes my Disney-loving self a bit concerned.

As the trailer shows, the new film will follow a young reporter (William Moseley) and his little sister (Loreto Peralta), who travel to a small Mississippi town to find the real “little mermaid,” (Poppy Drayton) who looks to have been forced into a gig in a circus act. The story seems pretty dark, with the mermaid known as the "Mermaid of Mississippi" and being held captive by an evil magician trying to steal her soul. It's definitely not like the plot of the animated Disney classic, to say the last.

Like any remake, this new movie has a lot to live up to, because everyone has the original engraved in their brains. And, as with many remakes nowadays, including the 2017 Beauty and the Beast and 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, it’s always going to be hard for fans to adjust to new storylines and big changes. But while I'm OK with some plot changes in this new Little Mermaid, I'm not as thrilled about a possibly much darker tone.

As the trailer shows, the mermaid is housed in a human-size fish tank at the circus. It seems as though she's been tricked and trapped by the ringmaster, who's stolen her soul from her. It's disturbing stuff, and seeing the ringmaster act as if the mermaid is a slave really bothers me, as a fan of the lighthearted, original film.

Even more, there doesn't seem to be any comic relief in a friendship shared between the Mermaid and a pal. One of the biggest reasons why I loved The Little Mermaid as a child was Ariel and Sebastian's friendship. Sebastian's constant candor and helpful words made the movie for me, but unfortunately, it seems like there won't be a handy sidekick for this live action mermaid.

Then there's Ariel's demeanor. In the Disney original, Ariel is confident. She sticks to what she wants with all the sass and personality the mermaid community can take. I’ve always loved her character's confidence in decision making, whether it be good or bad. Even when trouble came from her choices, she still owned it. But in the trailer for the new film, I don't get that same personality trait. In the two-minute length, she's seen crying, being held in a fish tank, gasping under water, and running. It feels like she might be more of a damsel here than a confident mermaid, adding to the new movie's darkness.

Of course, it's just a trailer, and there's no knowing what the full movie will be like. I'm hoping that the film will keep some of the joy of the original, and that even if major changes are made, it'll feel as delightful as the Disney classic we all know and love.