When The Lion King came out in 1994 it quickly took the world by storm. It was just the heartwarming story that grabbed the attention of its viewers, but also the incredibly innovative animation for the time. It blended classic hand-drawn animation with 3D animation beautifully and for that reason and others, it was extremely successful in the box office. It grossed over $968 million which, at the time, was over $450 million more than the previous highest-grossing animated film of all-time (1992’s Aladdin). It held the top position on that leaderboard for 16 years until it was passed by Toy Story 3. Side note: It’s kind of interesting we had a remake/sequel for all three of those films in 2019 isn’t it? Because of all of the success of the original, Disney didn’t really have to market for this film very much and it still would likely be very financially successful. While it is making boatloads of cash, does the movie hold up as a quality Disney remake? SPOILERS AHEAD
This movie looks so good that I couldn’t tell if I was watching Netflix’s Our Planet (great show btw) or Disney’s The Lion King. There were a few sequences and wide shots that really just made my jaw drop. There was a wide shot in the middle section of the movie right after Nala finds Simba that was so stunning that I honestly might have drooled and the guy in front of me in the theater. The CGI is so realistic that you could probably pause any given scene and count up a few thousand individual strands of fur on each of the lions. Amazing. They could’ve substituted Lion roar’s in place of every spoken line in the movie and I’d still watch it.
Like this review if that pun made you giggle out loud, share if you think I’m a complete dork. Anyway, pun aside, the plot of this version of our classic story is EXACTLY the same as the original. It seemed that about 90% of the dialogue was verbatim, and really the only things that were added were new jokes that fit better with the times. That may not sound like a big issue, but it made the plot pretty dull and uninteresting. The emotion wasn’t there because everyone and their grandma the story of The Lion King. I was hoping to get some original content that added to the depth and complexity of the same story.
Not only was the plot kind of boring, but I felt the film suffered from some major pacing problems. At 1 hr 58 minutes in runtime, I get the feeling that directed Jon Favreau was told to find a way to keep the movie under 2 hrs. The problem is, it needed to be longer. It felt like the movie was rushing through major plot points just so they got through every classic scene. In doing so, they rushed through scenes like Scar’s famous Be Prepared song and many others. I would’ve loved for this movie to be 30 minutes longer so that pacing didn’t suffer and there could be more room for original content. I was really hoping to get some background on Scar and Mufasa’s relationship growing up, as well as more time to build the audience’s emotional connection to Simba and Nala’s relationship growing up.
I thought the casting was excellent. I loved Donald Glover and Beyonce in this film but I don’t think I got enough of them. Adult Simba and Nala were probably only in the last 30 minutes or so. The music was great for the most part as well. I loved Beyonce and Glover’s rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” even though I felt like there wasn’t enough build-up for such an important scene. I also really liked “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”. The biggest disappointment for me in terms of music was by far the way they messed up “Be Prepared”.
While one of my biggest problems with this year’s remake of Aladdin was how unintimidating they made Jafar, I think Scar may have actually been more devious than in the original. Pumba and Timon were super funny, but I’d still probably consider them great value brands of the originals.
Probably the best scene in the whole movie is probably one that nobody is really going to talk about afterward. It is the scene where a tuft of Simba’s fur gets caught in the wind and carried throughout the savanna, eating by a giraffe, rolled by a dung beetle, and blown in the wind some more until it is carried to Rafiki to let him know that Simba is alive. It is a really visually aesthetic original scene with no dialogue at all.
The Rating: Does it deserve all that the light touches, or death via wildebeest stampede?
Though it is a visual masterpiece, this version of The Lion King doesn’t do anything new for its audience in terms of the storyline. This movie was probably one of the bigger let-downs for me since Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man Tell No Tales disgracefully came and left the theaters. However, because of the sheer beauty of the film’s cinematography, I can’t get myself to give it a rating that represents the lack of creativity and originality on display. However, if you are planning to see this film because you expect it to satisfy your need for creative and original Disney then you should probably take Scar’s advice: “Run away Simba. Run away and never return.”
Visual Rating: 9/10 Plot Rating 5/10