The Lion King - Review
The Lion King is very special to a lot of people. So the concept of a hyper-realistic CGI remake had people talking. Let's get this out of the way though: Regardless of what you think of this one it doesn't "ruin" the original. The 1994 classic will always stand on its own in a bubble, regardless of what comes after. The sub-par sequels didn't tarnish that film. Neither should this.
With that being said, The Lion King stayed incredibly close to the animated classic. In a lot of instances, it was a shot-for-shot parallel. The story you know and love is there. All the emotional parts are emotional, because director Jon Favreau painstakingly recreated them. That was the only decision, you couldn't change it too much, people would revolt.
But that is also the problem. This version of The Lion King has nothing new to say. There is no reason to watch this one over the 94 version after seeing the new animation once all the way through. This one is 29 minutes longer than the 94 version but adds absolutely nothing of substance.
The live action Aladdin tells the same story as its animated counterpart. But it strengthens, enhances, and improves the Jasmine character. It fixed one of the animated version's shortcomings. Both versions of the film say something. That is not the case with The Lion King.
The Lion King is like if you went to see a cover band do your favorite band's greatest hits. It will still be enjoyable. You'll get everything you're expecting, just with a slightly different look. At the end of the day though, the only reason you're a fan of that cover band is because you are a fan of the band they cover. If you had a chance to see the original band live, you'd much prefer that.
The movie is the 94 version with a fresh coat of paint. The animation is stunning. It doesn't look like animation. It looks like a documentary you would see on National Geographic. It really is something to behold, knowing it is all just pixels generated by a machine. But once that wears off, you'll find your mind wandering until you hit the part of the 94 version you wanted to see next.
The cast is pitch perfect. Everyone does well. Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumba (Seth Rogen) are the scene stealers, but everyone has their moment. All of the songs are there, but a couple feel forced. Scar's "Be Prepared" is more recited like a poem by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" is sang in broad daylight. The rest are awesome, and you can't help but tap your foot or silently mouth the words along with it (don't sing out loud in the theater you monsters!)
James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa, and the loss of timbre in his voice doesn't take you out of the movie as much as it does in Rogue One when he reprised Vader. Mufasa is an older lion, and the voice fits the character well. That would have been the hardest role to recast, so it's an inspired decision Favreau made to not recast it.
There isn't anything inherently wrong with The Lion King. Everything that made the 94 version a hit is here. But there is just something about it that makes it a little lackluster. It is like if your grandmother had a famous recipe for something, and another family member tried to make it instead. They would get close and it will probably taste really good still. But it won't be the same.
I love Favreau, but he was put in a tough position here. Make it exactly the same, and there is no point in doing this. Change it too much and there will be blood in the water. It is a fine line to tough. He made the right decision by being more conservative with the changes, but it was a lose-lose either way.
Overall, there is a lot to love about the movie. But everything that is great about it comes from the 94 version. The slight changes don't do anything to tip the scales in either direction. The extra 29 minutes extend a few scenes, but you can't really point to anything in the movie that is wholly original, except one solo song for Beyonce's Nala, and that is only a minute or so.
Outside of the animation style, you could copy and paste a review you agree with for the 94 version, and it would be pretty accurate to what you would think of this.
The Lion King is a thing that exists...twice now. After reveling in the animation style, head back to the superior version that was made in the 1990s.
The Lion King is currently playing in theaters everywhere.