Now that Disney is in full swing with attempting to re-imagine their iconic animated gems, the one film that has garnished the most attention by far and away was the announcement of a new Lion King, being directed by the prolific and underrated Jon Favreau. Favreau had previously injected new life and fun to the 2016 “The Jungle Book”, which undoubtedly was what landed him in the director’s chair.
I grew up watching all of the Disney animated classics, The Lion King is my favorite next to Aladdin. I remember being a kid at Disneyland back in the ’90s and watching the Disneyland parade go by and seeing Rafiki and absolutely losing.my.shit. over him. If you’ve seen any promotional work for the new Lion King you can see that they are trying to be as true to the original as possible. With a brand new coat of animation paint to make it look hyper-realistic, as if you are looking at REAL animals, this is a technical milestone. But while the animation and the effects are amazing, the Lion King lacks the emotional depth the original gave.
The story is beat for beat the exact same as the original, with slight expansions with some of the characters but really the film, for the most part, stays true to the source material. The animation is completely hyper-realistic. You believe you are looking at real-life animals. So much, in fact, that it’s tough to really see emotions or speech patterns reflected in the animals because a humans voice and emoting just can’t translate when you want a “real” animal. That can take away from the emotional beats at times, but I challenge anyone to watch the Mufasa scene without being completely wrecked with emotions.
The music is also a big selling point with these new Disney revamps, and with the leads of Simba and Nala being voiced by Donald Glover (from the band Childish Gambino) and Beyonce, you know that is going to be the best part of this film, and it is! I loved the versions of the music they put out, all of the voice actors hit their notes well (aside from a well-intentioned but tone-deaf Seth Rogen). Most of the voice acting were great, it’s was amazing to have James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa, as well as Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen who were PERFECTLY cast as Timon and Pumba. I like that they even let Seth Rogen iconic belly laugh be in this version of the character they felt very authentic and like they were able to ad lib a lot with their roles.
This film is tough to rate because they imitate and use SO MUCH of the original characters movements, dialogue, that you wonder if it can really be celebrated as it’s own work? To me, this is a lesser than version of essentially just the same film, but with a fuzzy new coat of animation paint and a bigger barrier to clear as far as connecting and seeing the emotional depth of the characters you grew up with. I had a really tough time being sold by some of the voice actings and there is a scene added in in the middle that completely threw me out of the film and had been questioning why it was there in the first place.
Of the remakes that have come out, this certainly isn’t the worst. I feel like Aladdin and Beauty & The Beast did a better job of blending the original concepts by adding enough to warrant a re-examination of some of the characters. The Jungle Book for me is still the top remake (directed by Favreau as well) because of how much it improved on the original. I just wish there was more attention paid to the story and how to get the audience back into this world without relying on the wonderful effects in front of you. It’s not a bad film, but when you have the original Lion King still in its white clamshell VHS case, I would pick that over this any day of the week.
The Lion King Gets a 6/10