The young lion, Simba, attempts to embrace his mantle as king after the tragic passing of his father… and yaddy yaddy yadder. We’ve all watched the 1994 Lion King and read William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We all know the plot of 2019’s The Lion King.
So first things first: yay, I’m back… finally. To be honest, I just needed a break from reviewing what has felt like the same movie over and over again. After about four years of doing this, its hard to notice how samey every movie generally feels. Seriously, every flick from the last few months have felt like carbon copies of one another. To be frank, it has all been rather tiring to observe. So, of course, returning to reviewing films, I have chosen to start with 2019’s The Lion King… which just proved everyone of my previous points, sadly.
If anything has been blunting my opinion on the current state of Hollywood film the most, it has been these darn Disney remakes. I believe, several times, I have ranted about these cheap, rather pathetic, reboots before, so I promise I won’t start breaking them down again. However, I will say: of all the Disney live-action remakes to have been released in the last few years, the only one I genuinely thought was great and an improvement on its original was 2016’s The Jungle Book, and I will stand by that.
It just so happens The Jungle Book remake was directed by Jon Favreau, a rather likeable Hollywood filmmaker allrounder. I respect Favreau and his output in cinema, even though he’s never really come close to making a genuine classic, aside from maybe 2008’s Iron Man. Either way, I was willing to give The Lion King a fighting chance, considering the talent of the director helming it… but whatever, looks like you cannot trust anyone anymore.
Look, that’s probably a bit too harsh. I don’t necessarily think the soullessness of 2019’s Lion King was all the fault of Favreau. This movie was genuinely fine and nothing to get overly upset about. If the original Lion King wasn’t already a movie, then yes, I would probably consider this 2019 iteration of the story rather good. However, being that we live in a world where the 1994 Lion King movie is one of the greatest films of all time, this 2019 version really has nothing of value to offer.
Speaking positively, the visual effects were astounding in this film. The photo realism was unlike anything I have seen before in genuinely any film ever. The Lion King contained frames of sheer beauty that I didn’t think was possible to be plucked from a computer, but here we are. Funny thing is, I have been calling this film the “live action” version, but realistically its still technically animation. Its just that the CGI is so damn good, you can hardly tell what it truly is at times.
Although, on the flipside, the visuals effects were also partly the film’s downfall.
Seriously, what is the point of remaking a film as passionate and soulful and rich and expressive as The Lion King but with animals ripped straight out of a David Attenborough documentary? If I wanted to see real lions, I would have just watched the Discovery channel. I don’t want to necessarily trash over the visual effects in this film, being how astounding they were, but surely Disney – at the height of their powers – could have used this stunning CGI for a completely new, original live action film, rather than just a safe, cheap remake.
And its a shame, because when you are watching this 2019 version going through the motions of the original, frame by frame, you instinctively anticipate something grand and fantastical to happen – as it would in the original. Instead, the movie offered nothing but ridiculously bad musical numbers sung by real animals with no magic or colour to impregnate the scene with fun or joy. This movie used, quite literally, the exact same songs as the Elton John written 1994 version and yet never did it feel an ounce as wonderous as the original.
In the film’s defence, the voice cast at least came close to keeping the movie slightly colourful and joyful. The voice performances of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumba stood out as obviously the best with John Oliver’s Zazu also landing some solid one liners here and there. I liked Donald Glover and Beyoncé as Simba and Nala, yet they both weirdly left a lot to be desired in their expressive talents. I still don’t understand why they felt a need to recast James Earl Jones as Mufasa, when all it did was remind audiences how much better the 1994 version was, and still is, in comparison. And then of course, I’m brought to Chiwetel Ejifor’s Scar whom I honestly loathed. Fact is, I love Ejifor and I also love Scar as a character, but together the two just did not work at all.
Of course, there were other notable additions to the voice cast who varied in good to fine, but all in all, who really cares about a charismatic couple of actors when their voices are being applied to the most uncharismatic bunch of characters. What I can say about The Lion King is that at least it was ambitious on a technical level, but beyond that, there’s not much else I could comment on it, quality-wise.
Again, I have been brought back to a question I have found myself asking about several movies of late and that is, “sure, the studio is evidently capable of doing it, but should they have done it?”. And I want to emphasis studio there because, this isn’t a work by a filmmaker. The Lion King 2019 was a product, first and foremost, and I’m disappointed to say so.
Although not complete trash, The Lion King served no real purpose to exist. What Disney could have done was just rerelease the 1994 version with a redubbed voice cast and saved themselves the time and money. Look Disney, I’m not disappointed – I honestly half expected this. And I can understand: either you remake the film with several changes to keep it fresh, running the risk of audiences hating it, or keep the film exactly the same in every aspect, and run the risk again of audiences hating it. Its a lose/ lose scenario, so my advice, Disney, for your next slate of live-action remakes would be to… you know… just don’t make them.
The Lion King, sadly, belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…
- IMP Awards 2019, The Lion King (2019), IMP Awards, TMDb, viewed 10 August 2019, <http://www.impawards.com/2019/lion_king_ver22.html> (Featured Image)
- Travers, P 2019, ‘The Lion King’ Remake: The Circle of Life Returns With a Risk-Free Repeat, Rolling Stone, Penske Business Media LLC, viewed 10 August 2019, <https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/disney-lion-king-live-action-review-857922/>