When it comes to the recent live-action Disney adaptations, one that seems the most daring, and slightly confusing, is The Lion King. The original 1994 film was quite the game-changer, perfectly blending together 2D and 3D animation, and is not only regarded as a top tier Disney classic, but is also often considered as one of the greatest films of all time. Can the new 2019 film reach the massive bar set by the original film?
A young lion named Simba (JD McCrary) is anointed as the next king of Pride Rock and wants to follow the footsteps of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), with the help of Zazu (John Oliver). Meanwhile, Mufasa’s brother, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) conducts a plan to take the throne for himself. This brings tragedy to the family and he exiles Simba from Pride Rock. Simba meets outcasts Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogan), who teach him to put his past behind him. As an adult, Simba (Donald Glover) is encouraged by his childhood friend Nara (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) and shaman Rafiki (John Kani) to return to Pride Rock and claim back his birthright.
While The Lion King (2019) is considered a “live-action” adaptation of the original film, it is done completely in computer-generated imagery using a photorealistic design. Director Jon Favreau first utilised this style with the 2016 Jungle Book adaptation by recreating the iconic characters as realistic animals that talk and sing. Similar to The Jungle Book (2016), the visual effects demonstrated in The Lion King (2019) are quite amazing as the African environments and the characters are brought to life, almost making the film look like a nature documentary. That being said, the attempt to make the characters look so real can be almost a detriment to the film as the unique designs and facial expressions are very limited, almost making some of the emotional moments hard to be invested in. While the voice actors are all perfectly chosen and do really well, especially Eichner, Rogan, and Oliver, the blank expressions from the animals don’t always blend together.
Remakes are always tricky as they often make unnecessary changes to the original story to stand on their own. The 2019 Lion King, however, went out of its way to recreate almost every single moment from the 1994 film without going too far from the guidelines. For die-hard fans, this outcome can be appealing as they will more than likely get to see their favourite sequences brought to life. From the iconic ‘Circle of Life‘ opening sequence to ‘Hakuna Matata‘, The Lion King (2019) lives by the phrase “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” For other audiences, this may seem like an almost unsatisfying experience as they know exactly where the story is going.
Overall, The Lion King (2019) is visually spectacular and carefully crafted to pay tribute to the original film with the help of the talented cast. However, the film doesn’t quite offer anything new by sticking as close as possible to the 1994 film. I can definitely recommend the film to fans who want to see an updated look of the original film, especially on the big screen.
Rating: ★★★ out of 5
The Lion King (2019) is in cinemas July 17th.