The Disney trend of live action remakes continues here, although given that this is almost all CGI it doesn’t really count as live action. I’ve found the results a bit mixed, with some adding new depths or twists to the original films. But of all the movies this is easily the most pointless.
Here’s the thing, The Lion King is one of my favourite Disney movies, in fact it may be one of my favourite films. It’s a beautifully crafted animation film with a superb soundtrack, a host of memorable characters and profoundly moving. This remake falls down on pretty much every level.
The major problem is that everything that works here comes from the original film and everything that doesn’t is something that’s added or a result of the change in style. The Elton John songs from the first movie are fantastic, and their reworkings are decent cover versions. And the plot, aside from a few minor tweaks, is pretty much the same.
The problem is that while the animators of the original film looked at real animals for inspiration they then gave them a cartoony spin that allowed more expression and character to shine through, but Jon Favreau’s approach towards realistic creature design robs them of that.
It made sense in The Jungle Book to make the animals look as realistic as possible as they were interacting with a human performer. But there are no humans in this film, and so the realistic approach just hampers things. It would have been better to have added a more artistic aspect that would make them more memorable and distinctive, and helped the voice actors who face an uphill battle to breathe personality into characters without any strong visuals to help.
The character worst effected by this is Scar, voiced by Chiwitel Ejiofor, who becomes a painfully dull antagonist. Ejiofor does the voice well enough, capturing the scheming, cowardly and sarcastic aspects of the character even if he never matches the stellar work of Jeremy Irons. The problem is that Irons also had a character who could make a variety of gestures and facial expressions to craft one of Disney’s most memorable villains. The 2019 Scar is far more forgettable.
Other characters suffer too, Rafiki (John Kani) is nowhere near as entertaining or interesting as he was, and the hyenas aren’t as fun either.
Nala and Serabi are hard to tell apart in some scenes, as one lioness looks pretty much like another. And even the lions aren’t as distinct as they could have been. When Scar and Simba (Donald Glover) get their big throw down it’s difficult at times to tell which lion is which.
On the whole the film just feels like a waste of everyone’s time. There are a few laughs along the way and a few of the cast do well to bring some charm to proceedings, particularly John Oliver (Zazu), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and Billy Eichner (Timon). And it’s hard to mess up the Tim Rice and Elton John songs, which are still solid. There are two new songs “Spirit” by Beyonce who voices Nala, and “Never to Late” by John which plays over the end credits. I found “Spirit” a bit meh, but “Never to Late” is joyous and upbeat.
There’s an admirable commitment to the original, with shots being recreated and the opening sequence is beautiful, but the skill of the animation isn’t enough to carry it off. And after a while as realistic as the animals look it leaves the whole film a drabber and less captivating place.
I doubt this will inspire the love the original did or ever be the first choice. And those fancy effects will probably date quicker too.
Save your money, just watch the 1994 version again.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.