As Disney continues its money train of remaking its classic animated movies for a new generation, they decided to touch their most perfect movie with the potential to make it stronger with realistic visuals and added story to build on certain characters and flesh things out. Many people questioned why we need to remake The Lion King as it going “live-action” doesn’t make a lot of sense when the movie stars only animals and after seeing this movie, the nostalgia is the only thing Disney is trying to sell you on. The Lion King is an unfortunate disappointment that relies on your love of the original to love this one. It may boast outstanding visuals and a stacked voice cast but there are so many other things that make this attempt feel off.
If you’re familiar with the story of The Lion King then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into but for those unfamiliar: the story is about a young lion cub by the name of Simba who has to learn to step in the big role of king left by his father after his unexpected death. With these remakes I’m always looking for how the movie is able to expand on the previously known story and unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot done to add any depth to it and the characters. The movie is thirty minutes longer than the original (2 hours) but a lot of that new time goes to extending preexisting scenes and slight additions that don’t add to the story. I wish they did something like adding onto the chemistry between Simba and Nala or giving us more time with Mufasa by showing just how much respect the other animals have for him instead of just the beginning with “The Circle of Life”.
The biggest praise I can give this movie is the breathtaking visuals that utterly floored me at points. There’s one shot in the movie that’s live-action (the very first shot of the movie) and the rest is all computer animation which looks incredibly realistic, brimming with detail. Jon Favreau does some wonderful things with the camera when he isn’t using the same shot as the original. There are a couple of shots I do feel the animated one did better but for the most part, the remake is very pleasing on the eyes. Unfortunately, with the heightened realism comes some takeaways, particularly in the expressions of the characters. You can’t really give the animal expressions too close to a human because it could totally cross into the uncanny valley but when a happy lion looks like a sad and scared lion, it affects the voice acting and makes it a bit of a struggle to connect to the characters. Another one that bugged me was the “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” sequence that loses the popping colour of the original and the fact that we see it through Simba’s imagination, it disconnects from the young mind and knowledge that he doesn’t know the only way he’d be king is if his dad dies.
The music, for the most part, is excellent with Hans Zimmer returning to do the score again. He makes some subtle updates to his original score that completely work for the movie. All the original songs sound excellent with the new voice cast singing it but they butchered “Be Prepared” by making it shorter, almost like they didn’t want to put it in but did just to try and please fans. Also, I have no idea how this got past anybody but “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” takes place entirely during the day which doesn’t make any sense. There was also a new song called “Spirit” that was completely forgettable.
As I mentioned, the voice cast is absolutely stacked with talent. James Earl Jones returns to reprise his role as Mufasa and does another great job reading basically the same lines as the original. He brings a deep, booming, strong voice to Mufasa that still remains iconic. Donald Glover voices Simba and does a decent job but I feel it have any Donald Glover personality and just feels like the exact same Simba from the ’90s. Chiwetel Ejiofor voices Scar and I have the most mixed reaction to this performance. The lines are straight from the original Scar which doesn’t quite always work and the delivery of certain lines could’ve been better, especially the iconic “long live the king line”. Standouts for me are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timone and Pumbaa who actually bring their own spin to the characters with some of their own jokes and while still having the spirit of the original.
The Lion King remake may be a stunner to the eyes but disappoints in a lot of other areas. It never took advantage by adding anything substantial to the story and primarily sells it all on nostalgia. It’s a shot for shot remake with a new look, new voices and some small changes that hurt more than help. There’s no reason to watch the remake as it offers pretty much nothing that the original didn’t do better. I love the story but it’s the same story and it makes no sense why they touched such a perfect classic. You can, however, have some fun with the movie so you won’t be bored and helps get you through the movie.
The Lion King (2019)
The Lion King is a disappointing attempt at a remake as it fails to add anything substantial. The visuals are straight-up gorgeous, music great and a stacked voice cast help but the realism of it and a lot of small changes take away parts of the spirit of the original. It’s a shot for shot remake that sells you on the nostalgia of the 1994 classic and will be the only reason that gets you in the theater.