By Dawson Martin
In 1994, Disney released an absolute masterpiece. The Lion King (1994) is one of the best films ever made. It’s a film that is admired and beloved all over the world. They really struck gold, and everything came into place to make such a great movie. It’s essentially Disney’s take on Hamlet, and the story feels very Shakespearean and just epic. That story element with award winning music, great hand drawn animation, and perfect voice acting makes for a masterwork. It’ll make you laugh, cry, cheer, and all of the above. It’s as close to perfection a film can get.
In 2019, Disney released a “live action” remake of their masterpiece. Is this Disney’s “Circle of Life?”. They create a classic film and 20 something years later they remake it? Yes, I think it is. Some argue about the live action aspect, since only one shot was actually filmed while the rest of it was made in a computer. Whether you want to call it animation or live action, it’s pretty damn impressive. Director Jon Favreau and his team have done some incredible CGI work starting with The Jungle Book (2016) and perfecting it with this new film. Every shot looks photorealistic and it’s simply stunning how real everything looks. The animals and backgrounds are all made from a computer and that’s absolutely mind blowing for how real this thing looks. The creative and technical crew behind this deserves countless awards and praise for what they’ve done here. So for the visuals, this film is a stunning achievement in technology.
The tall task is getting these beautifully realistic animals to sing and for the most part, it works. The animals don’t show any emotion while they talk or sing. It’s distracting at first, but you have to think about it. I’m mostly talking about the lions here. The director definitely went the more realistic approach and sometimes the emotional aspect of the story isn’t there. It’s different and hard to connect to characters that won’t show emotion. That seems to be everyone’s complaints all over Twitter and I agree to some extent. I also agree with the realistic approach the director took and I couldn’t imagine having to make those decisions. The thing that helps make it work are the wonderful performances by the cast. It’s really a great cast and after seeing the film I wouldn’t want anybody else voicing these characters in the new film. The stand outs were definitely Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa. They were absolutely hilarious and added some really fun and new dialogue to the story.
The incomparable James Earl Jones came back to reprise his role as Mufasa. Jones has one of the most iconic voices in film history and it’s amazing to hear him take on this role again. JD McCrary plays young Simba and he was great! Donald Glover plays Simba when he’s older and he also does a very nice job. Let’s talk about the music. Childish Gambino and Beyoncé take on “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and it’s pretty good! I couldn’t help but notice that they sang that song during the day. Why? How? How does that make sense? The original was during the night and I don’t see how it makes sense to sing that song during the day. Also, Beyoncé’s new song “Spirit” for this film was added into a scene in the film and it felt forced and I didn’t like how it sounded. For me, it didn’t fit into this world or sound like any of the other music. It sticks out like a sore thumb and feels only placed into the film to try to get her an Oscar (which I highly doubt will happen). The iconic “Be Prepared” gets a facelift and becomes shorter and less singing with more angry yelling. I liked it and the performance of it was really good by Chiwetel Ejiofor. JD McCrary was amazing on his rendition of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”.
The music for this was really well done and I’m glad to say that! The incredible Hans Zimmer comes back to create the score for this film and it’s great as always. Zimmer is the man behind the scores for films such as Interstellar, Inception, Gladiator, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and The Lion King. The visuals and music in this are really great. The story however is the same one you remember from the first one. This new film is almost a shot for shot remake of the original. The emotional beats in this new film aren’t as good and the directing definitely isn’t as well done. I don’t know why they didn’t try to put a different spin on some scenes. It’s like watching the original animated one but with real life looking animals. It’s an impressive visual film, but at times the pacing of the film seems slower and combine that with the visually emotionless musical numbers and it makes for a lesser film. What can I say though, it’s The freakin Lion King! I love this story and the music so much!
Overall this film was very well done, and it was visually breathtaking. The story is the same as the original and it’s almost a complete remake frame for frame. It didn’t feel as new or fresh as it could have been if they took different creative choice to make it somewhat different. This movie didn’t live up to the hype I had for it. I was expecting something to rip my pants off, but instead I got an enjoyable remake that didn’t take many risks but seems worthy of existing.
It’s hard to go too high with this, because it’s a lesser remake of a perfect film. It was almost a shot for shot remake and the real masterpiece and must-see film is the one from 1994!
Photo Credit: amazon.com