Title: The Lion King
Release Date: July 19th, 2019
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Jon Favreau
Release Format: Theatrical
DVD Release Date: October 22, 2019
The Lion King (2019) is as great as it was 25 years ago in many ways while making some changes that don’t work like a zebra being roommates with a cheetah.
The plot follows Simba who must learn to be the king the Pride Land needs in order to save it from a terrible fate. He meets friends along the way, foes to overcome and some snazzy tunes that need to be sung.
The CG is so superb that people keep referring to this as live-action even though it’s not. This technological achievement is also the Achilles heel of the film. The team is so focused on making updating Lion King for modern eyes it was blind to what the original special.
There’s a lot of great performances from the cast like Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon & Pumba. Then, there are other actors that are only there for name recognition, instead of adding anything to the role. The Lion King (2019) has a lot to unpack, let’s get into it.
Grab the Mic
The question on many minds is if the song numbers live up to the original. Eh, I would say mostly none of them change anything too much, it’s just bar karaoke, you see good and bad covers.
There are definitely more instruments with everything going for a grander sound on every track. These added quirks can be cool on songs like “Hakuna Matata.” However, the issue arises from The Lion King being reserved in the visuals during many of the numbers.
These changes seem to be made for the sake of change rather than artistic merit, even if it didn’t fit. Scar’s “Be Prepared” number suffers greatly from losing the toxic green smoke and crumbling earth. “Can You Feel The Love Tonight“ feels weird for a song of that title to be sung in the middle of the day.
That live-action The Little Mermaid is about to have Ariel sing “Under the Sea” in the middle of the desert. The changes here didn’t seem to have much thought behind beyond “don’t mess this up” being repeated over and over.
Beyonce overpowers Donald Glover’s vocals, making it feel like a competition rather than being a duet. They are also just okay as the leads as when the story requires them to carry it, they struggle. This is especially noticeable after coming off of Shahadi Joseph and JD McCrary, who delivered as their younger versions.
The movie shines when tries to do its own twist at times with the new versions of Timon & Pumbaa. They’re different while keeping the spirit of those characters. The film plays into their comedy strengths to provide most of the best moments.
I want a Lion King 1 1/2 now as the duo were by far the most entertaining part of the film. When they appeared it’s like the project received the shot in the arm needed to bring new life. The pieces of new dialogue they bring give a glimpse of what could have been if Disney hadn’t been shackled to the original.
This new animation style does lend itself to some awesome looking moments. For example, Simba fighting on top of Pride Rock or Nala chasing Pumbaa. The exciting visuals genuinely do look excellent, showcasing some of the improvements here over the original.
However, as fantastic as the CG animation is here there are a lot of moments where your eye can’t help but catch weird stuff. Whether it be water splashing like jello or animals mouths moving like old dubbed kung fu flicks. There are still limitations to technology and the more you try to make something look realistic, the easier it is to notice flaws.
A lot of these issues can be looked over except when it comes to the emotional points in the film. The aim for realism takes away from the emotion and imagination the hand-drawn animated version had.
The overall problem here is that many scenes are less lively and toned down than original. If it wasn’t almost a shot for shot remake in so many parts, it could have been ignored. However, when this movie imitates its ’94 counterpart, you can’t help but notice the shortcomings more.
Again, the “Be Prepared” musical number is the perfect example of how so much was lost in the translation. Scar just kind of walks around delivering the spoken word. Scar went from flamboyant scary villain to annoying hipster at a coffee shop real quick.
Choose for Yourself
Verdict: The Lion King is a really good adaptation of a classic movie that throws itself off a cliff to stay faithful. Most of the new changes, ever so slightly as they are, do nothing to enhance the film. Instead, they hurt it at times.
Simply, this film is like me changing the font from Arial to Times New Roman. It is the same thing wrapped in a different package. Catch this if you’re a hardcore fan of the series and love Disney films (four stars for you).
What’s the best Disney remake so far? Which song from The Lion King stands above the others? Are you excited about this “new” version of the film? Leave your comments!
- Fantastic animation
- Great musical numbers
- Well delivered performances from (most) the cast
- Copies too much of the original, except not as well
- Emotional moments don't connect like they should
- Adult Nala & Simba can't carry later half