The Lion King
By James Davidson
In 1994, Disney released the animated movie, “The Lion King”, about a young lion prince who must learn the meaning of responsibility after his father is murdered. This film was an instant classic beloved by children everywhere. Now, in 2019, Disney is attempting to recreate that magic by remaking the film in a more realistic fashion. Using CGI (Computer Generated Images) Disney has recreated the African Pride Lands, where Simba (the lion prince) and Nala (the princess) run and play and learn about ruling a kingdom, to make it look like real-life African plains.
I am old enough to remember going to the theater to see the original, animated “Lion King”. It was definitely a classic and a good memory from my childhood. I was very skeptical about this remake, I really didn’t think that Disney Studios should mess with a classic. Especially since their track record with these live-action remakes have been hit or miss, to say the least. I was hoping to be proven wrong, though, considering there is such a strong cast; featuring the return of James Earl Jones as the voice of Mufasa, Simba’s father, as well as Donald Glover and Beyonce as Simba and Nala, respectively; and with Marvel Studios superstar, John Favereu, directing. Considering all of these Hollywood powerhouses, this movie had a lot of potential.
Part of what gave the original “Lion King” its charm was that it featured animated, talking and dancing animals. The animals acted like humans and used their faces to convey emotion, which worked well to make the animated children’s movie a classic. Unfortunately, talking life-like animals do not convey the same charm. As soon as the realistic-looking lions, birds, and other animals began talking, it was somewhat unnerving. Live-action animals do not convey emotions with their faces either, which made it difficult to connect to the characters, as they gave heartfelt speeches while gazing aimlessly through deadpan eyes.
The voice acting and writing made it very difficult to become attached to this movie, as well. Everytime I felt myself beginning to care about a scene or character, something would happen or be said that broke the mood. Whether it was a cheesy line that didn’t fit the scene, bad voice acting, or just the lack of expression from the character talking, it was very difficult to care much about this movie. If I had never seen the original film, I might have a different opinion. The legacy of the first movie might overshadow this one in my eyes. This remake feels like a diet version of a great movie. The frustrating thing is that this is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original. So in my head I kept replaying the scene from the original in my head and comparing it to the version I was seeing on screen, and it could not compare. For example, I kept wanting to see the original Timon and Pumba on screen instead of what I was given.
Speaking of Timon and Pumba, they were a miniscule bright spot in this otherwise bleak film. Their comedic relief was much needed and mostly enjoyable. There are several tiny bright moments in the film, the CGI is done very well which results in some exceptionally beautiful scenery. The opening sequence, panning over the Pride Lands, showing all of the animals in the kingdom was truly breathtaking. Most of the songs were also performed very well. The majority were remixed versions of the originals, which was different, but they were still enjoyable. They were missing a bit of the flair from the originals though; the real-life animals don’t dress in costumes and dance like their animated counterparts did.
“The Lion King” is rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements. It was a decent family movie, although it did run a little long. I noticed some of the children getting restless during slower parts of the movie. The film is two hours long and can feel a bit slow at times, especially since you already know what is going to happen.
The remake of “The Lion King” falls flat for me, it has some great visuals and a tiny bit of comedic relief. It is essentially the same story and shots as the original and taking away the animation also seemed to remove some of the magic and wonder. This would not be a bad movie to take your family to see, but I think you’re better off watching the original. 2 out of 5 stars.