Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, Billy Eichner, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Keegan-Michael Key
Written by: Jeff Nathanson, (story) Brenda Chapman, (based on characters created) Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton
Running Time: 118 mins
Release date: 19th July 2019
Let me start with a controversial statement: I was never a fan of The Lion King. I liked the 1994 animation, but I didn’t rave about it like some people. I also think the stage musical is a little on the dull side. Having laid all its cards on the table in the first scene, when all the animals arrive to pay homage to the new King, it has nowhere else to go. So going into this new computer-generated version didn’t fill me with great excitement. While technically it is magnificent, it didn’t breathe any newfound wonderment for the story, and once again I came out a little non-plussed.
Simba is the son of Mufasa, the Lion King. The young cub’s future is set. However, Mufasa’s brother, Scar, felt the position was rightly his and is angered that he is no longer next in line. He takes the law into his own hands and sets up the young Simba to take the fall for a tragedy. Lost and alone, Simba finds solace and friendship with Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and a warthog, who teach him about responsibility.
Jon Favreau’s film is a treat for the eyes. It is astounding how they have managed to make this world so incredibly real. When you consider each frame has been produced by a computer, yet still maintaining to have a cinematic feel. The camera sweeps in, creating out of focus shots in the background, amazing close-ups and capture the land as if you were watching a nature documentary.
The animals that live in this land are so detailed, with every hair, every movement, exactly like the real thing. From the tiniest insect to the enormous elephants, the technology has created the most realistic environment you will ever see on film. However, you may be amazed by the visuals but sadly surprised that this is an almost shot-by-shot remake with very little different from the original cell animation.
From the opening scene, accompanied by the stirring Elton John and Tim Rice number, The Circle of Life, the film has a sense of Deja Vu, even down to the title of the movie appearing on the song’s final drum beat. The rest of the film is a carbon copy of the original, with one or two extra pieces of detail to try and show a difference. Favreau’s previous Disney remake, The Jungle Book, had a different approach to the story and characters and so wasn’t so much a total copy. Here, however, you feel you are watching the original but lacking that emotional punch the first film had. Mainly because it’s easier to show emotions on animals faces when they are cartoons, but when going for realism, this isn’t so easy.
Cynically you find yourself wondering why they decided to remake this film. It wouldn’t be for a fast buck, would it? This is when you find yourself not so much enjoying the presentation but questioning when will Disney stop this obsession of remaking their animated back catalogue.
The vocal cast does a perfect job, with Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner stealing the film from everyone as Pumbaa and Timon. Donald Glover and Beyonce are fine as the older Simba and Nala, while the Lion King wouldn’t be the same without James Earl Jones as Mufasa.
For all its plus points, this isn’t as good as The Jungle Book. While you will be amazed by the images, you may find yourself not caring about the story as it hasn’t be altered. Disney obviously has the technology, maybe they should use it on something original now. Sadly, this wasn’t King enough.