You either hate them or love them, but the Disney live action film remakes are here to stay, and Jon Favreau’s 2019 adaptation of The Lion King is the newest in the bunch.
Simba (voice of JD McCrary and Donald Glover) idolizes his father, King Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones), and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar (voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
Ever since the release of Favreau’s 2016 reimagining of The Jungle Book, which garnered mass critical and commercial acclaim, the giant that is Disney has been churning out quite a few live action remakes of their old beloved classics. Some of these include Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and most recently Aladdin, which is still playing in quite a few theatres surprisingly.
Although there are a ton of people that genuinely despise these newer motion pictures, I have gotten quite a bit of enjoyment out of them actually. There has never been a live action Disney remake that I did not like – up until I saw the new 2019 version of The Lion King.
Disney has been around for decades and is extremely well known for creating some of, if not the, best animated movies for families and children of all ages. One of the many reasons why they are so beloved by millions is because of their expertise at storytelling. It seems like practically every one of their pictures is chalked full of terrific emotion, hilarious and relatable characters, and an exhilarating story that will entertain everybody.
Above all though, 1994’s The Lion King, directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff is considered by many to be the best film that Disney has ever put out. Other stories such as Aladdin and The Jungle Book are stories that I could definitely see how they could be improved with a modern take on the story, but not so much with The Lion King.
The biggest reason as to why Favreau’s latest fails to impress on virtually every level is due to the fact that it is a shot for shot remake of the original. By putting the two side to side, you would see that there is barely a difference in the way both films are presented. When it comes to a remake, there should always be a different and unique vision being presented onscreen that differentiates it from its counterpart, but this film just does not do that.
Do not get me wrong, the visual effects in this movie are genuinely breathtaking and the computer generated imagery present is some of the best I have ever seen. Everything looks photorealistic and it is mind boggling to think about how long it must have taken the creative team to make this film look the way it does. What is unfortunate though, is that a lot of the time, Lion King can feel soulless. The animated original had such a unique visual flair and feel to it all that was not replicated here.
Lions and other animals sing and talk here, as well as show emotions, but it can be genuinely difficult to tell what emotions they are going through at times. Sometimes, something incredibly depressing can occur and the camera cuts to a shot of one of the lion characters, and it can be hard to tell what they are thinking at that moment.
The music involved is definitely something to be praised, though. All of the songs sound beautiful and combined make for one amazing soundtrack that not only Disney fans, but fans of music will want to listen to again and again.
At the end of the day, The Lion King is not a harmful film in any way shape or form. What is sad however, is that this picture did not need to exist. The 1994 original already exists and is considered to be a classic by many, so why bother doing it again? You’re better off staying at home and popping in your Blu-ray of that instead.
Although The Lion King boasts incredible visuals and has beautiful musical numbers, it is a film that ultimately feels soulless and is much weaker than the original.
Overall Grade: C
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements
Cast: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Running Time: 118 minutes