I finally got around to watching the remake of The Lion King. I was interested in seeing it from its first announcement, but it wasn’t urgent. I like Director Jon Favreau, The original The Lion King and the live-action remake of The Jungle Book. Overall, I enjoyed watching the movie. Here are my thoughts on the good and bad of The Lion King 2019.
The movie looks amazing. The animals look hyper-realistic, and the scenery is stunning. I think flawless visuals were absolutely necessary to pull off this movie with an all CGI cast. Just watching the film without sound would probably prove entertaining enough, as it’s essentially like watching a documentary with a story dubbed over it. There is a downside to this, though. The animals look so real that when they are singing, it feels a little strange. Even the highly comedic Timon and Pumbaa still have their natural straight animal faces throughout the movie. Our imaginations try to fill the gap using our memory from watching the original film in combination with the inflection in the actors’ voices. It didn’t ruin the movie, but it made me realize I don’t necessarily want to see realistic singing animals again.
I did really like the time spent with Timon and Pumbaa, their home, and the animals they lived with. This portion of the film was more colorful and whimsical. I think the imagery and content matched up a little better and didn’t seem as strange. Seeing funny looking animals do funny things dulls the awkwardness of realizing they are talking and singing. I’m glad Timon and Pumbaa had some new jokes mixed in with some of the lines from the original. It made the movie feel a little fresher.
For some reason, seeing the film now as an adult, the messages struck a chord with me. I don’t remember getting very emotional as a kid watching it. This was interesting because I got to experience what I imagine Disney tries to do with every release by targeting, both children and adults in different ways. This time around “remember who you are,” losing loved ones, the weight of Simba’s guilt, and “having a sense of responsibility” all stood out to me and made me think of something in my life. Maybe that’s just where I am, but it was a strange realizing it as it was happening.
The only thing I didn’t like about The Lion King was Scar’s song, “Be Prepared”. I thought it was the low point of the film. In the original, the visuals during the scene were exciting, and the song was dramatic. As a kid, I realized I was enjoying the villain’s song about the evil deeds he was planning, but it was still catchy and fun to watch. Unfortunately, it is the most awkward of all the songs in the new movie. The visuals were boring this time around with Scar climbing back and forth on rocks and staring at the hyenas. I enjoyed Chiwetel Ejiofor as the voice of Scar, but he did not sing well in this song. Luckily, this was the only song I didn’t like and really my only disappointment with the film.
On a larger scale, the movie did not convince me that these live-action remakes are necessary. I enjoyed The Jungle Book remake, but I saw it on TV at my leisure. I think that movie works great in this Disney live-action remake format. Its an older film, so it’s not as fresh in our minds. A lot of viewers may not have ever even seen the original animated version of The Jungle Book due to its age. The fact that Mowgli grew up with the animals and the story is contained to the jungle makes the animals speaking not seem as jarring for some reason. It’s almost as if only they can understand each other and we are just given the translation or that it’s a magical jungle. The Jungle Book live-action remake also came out of nowhere and was something new when it came out.
Now we are getting live-action remakes back to back, and it doesn’t seem to matter if they make sense or not. Aladdin and The Lion King were great animated films, but did they need to be remade almost scene for scene? These remakes are unfortunately feeling like a nostalgia money grab. People will go and see them, and probably say they enjoy them because they are replications of great movies. A lot of our focus is spent comparing the remake and the original rather than just enjoying the movie. I just tend to think that Disney could do more and we deserve better for our money.
I’m happy I went to see The Lion King. I’m not in a hurry to go and see it again, though. I’d much rather watch and enjoy the animated version, which I have already done recently. I would recommend the new movie for those who are curious to see a live-action version of the classic or those who don’t enjoy animation. The opening scene where Simba is presented is not to be missed and is worth looking up sometime. I do hope that this string of remakes comes to an end soon in exchange for some new films both live-action and animated.