King Of The Jungle, But Not King Of Creativity: The Lion King Movie Review

Disney’s The Lion King is a movie that lies in the heart of nearly every 90’s kid; from the stirring soundtrack by Elton John and Tim Rice, to it’s Shakespearian take on storytelling, and the vibrant voice cast that brought each animated animal of the Pride Lands to life, The Lion King is practically perfect.

So why bother remaking it?

The Lion King cannot necessarily be remade into a ‘live-action’ reimagining of the classic tale, unlike other recent Disney adaptions such as the successful 2017 Beauty and the Beast adaption, which featured Emma Watson as Belle and raked in over US $1.26 billion at the Box Office.

The Lion King also did not need to be modernised like this year’s Aladdin live-action adaption which, though the story structure remained quite similar, had several changes to it’s lyrics and sub-plots to ensure it continued to stay relevant and accurately portrayed Middle Eastern culture. Some of these modernisations included an updated multicultural cast; the removal of greedy and violent stereotypes and the use of sword iconography; changing of racist lyrics such as, “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face”, and; giving Princess Jasmine a greater voice with a political purpose to, not just marry, but become Sultan and also her own song – the only female solo number in the film.

None of these reasons for adaptions were relevant to The Lion King, leading us to the only explanation for Disney to adapt the movie so quickly, money.

After Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland adaption shot to success in 2010, making over $1.025 billion at the box office on a $150 million budget, and a string of live-action box office flops including Tomorrowland, John Carter, and The Lone Ranger, Disney evidently realised that their key to live-action success was familiarity.

For the past few years Disney have been literally banking on the fact that consumers will always support familiar stories and familiar characters. That, the fact that movie prices have recently sky rocketed, and streaming services are in full swing, has resulted in punters only leaving their homes to see films guaranteed to be worth their precious time and money.

Being a big fan of Disney, musicals, and the original Lion King film, there was no doubt in my mind about seeing this remake. The trailer made it’s ‘live-action’ CGI effects seem so visually stunning that it appeared to be a David Attenborough documentary, and it was clear that not a lot of changes were being made to destroy the nostalgia attached to one of my favourite films (unlike the lack of music, dragon, or cricket in the upcoming Mulan live-action adaption).

So I totted along, like I do for pretty much any Disney, Marvel, or Pixar production these days, to see how they had reinterpreted this classic story. But very few things had actually changed.

I’m not going to lie, this remake was almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the original film, but in higher definition. Plus, there was only a meagre one additional musical number that was an extra-diegetic song used as transitional filler and a platform for Beyoncé to have her own solo – it was nothing grand and was unable to stand with the likes of The Circle of Life or Hakuna Matata.

Whilst on the topic of animation and singing, though I often found myself being lost in the artistic genius that was displayed in this film, frequently forgetting that I was watching an animated film and not a bunch of filmed animals, I noticed that my eyes often wondered away from the character’s faces and mouths, especially when they spoke and sang. The animation was so life-like, that it felt unnatural to see these great predators singing about their feelings. It was almost like the story and music of The Lion King was being played over a National Geographic Documentary. And because of this, some of the emotion and impact the original movie was able to portray through the stylised facial expressions of the animated characters, was in fact lost in the detailed CGI.

Despite feeling a bit confused with the necessity of The Lion King remake, I did thoroughly enjoy it’s updated voice cast, with the exception of James Earl Jones who reprised his role of Mufasa with his powerful voice.

Donald Glover perfectly played the crown prince Simba, lending his purring vocals to some of our favourite tracks including Can You Feel The Love Tonight and Hakuna Matata. We also had Chiwetel Ejiofor create the perfect villain and a more mature rendition of Be Prepared. John Oliver was also an excellent replacement of the beloved Rowan Atkinson in the role of the very structured jungle administrator, Zazu. But my personal favourite voice casting was of the comedy duo of Timon and Pumba, who were voiced by the often-irate comedian Billy Eichner and the guffawing Seth Rogen. Their updated dialogue that was given a much more sarcastic tone and their laughing and banter was, for me, the highlight of the film. I was surprised by Eichner’s singing talent that complimented his unique voice casting, and thoroughly enjoyed Rogen’s attempts to keep up – all of which made their characters more enjoyable.

The only issue I had with the voice casting was, shockingly, with Queen Beyoncé. I felt that her talent was flaunted unnecessarily at the wrong times, overpowering both Donald Glover’s singing and the story during Can You Feel The Love Tonight with her endless running and riffing. Her vocals possibly just needed to be toned down two or three notches, since we already know she is a talented singer and therefore did not need to prove it to anyone in the cinema who was seeing The Lion King.

Though Disney don’t seem to be slowing on the live-action adaptions with the likes of Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Lady and the Tramp, and Cruella all coming in the near future, I do believe there are some Disney films due for a proper live-action reimagining that could have some good outside of just making money, for the sake of money.

I know I am not the only one who would enjoy Disney adapting some of their animated box office flops into live-actions such as Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and The Black Cauldron – all movies which could become significantly more attractive with the right cast, the wonders of ever-improving technology and CGI, and a butt-load of Disney dollars.

To bring all these thoughts together, I really did enjoy The Lion King remake and found it to be a visual masterpiece and absolutely stunning artistic endeavour that could mesmerise anyone and everyone. Though I do not whole-heartedly believe that a remake or adaption of this classic Disney film was necessary, I have no regrets going to see it and had an enjoyable time reliving the joy it brought me as a child.

So on that note, I give Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King a ‘go see it in cinemas if you are a big fan of nostalgia, but wait to stream it if you are looking for a new and creative story’.

If you would like to appreciate just a snippet of how far animation has come since the original Lion King film in 1994, check out this comparison:

– Courtie