Film Review: The Lion King

After the success of 2016’s The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau returns to helm a remake of the 1994 classic, The Lion King. What did I think?

Well, let’s focus on the positives first. Visually, the film is phenomenal. This is quite possibly the best CGI/animation I’ve ever seen on the big screen, the animals and environments look so real that I sometimes thought I was genuinely looking at live-action shots. It is crazy to see how far the technology has come, and it’s an exciting prospect to think about where cinema could go as this style of animation continues to develop and improve. The music is still great too, and I think that this part of the film does hold up compared to the original, it’s personal preference as to which rendition of each song you prefer, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who prefers some versions in this film.

Sadly, that’s about as much as I can say in terms of positives. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say that The Lion King is a bad film, but there’s one thing that becomes crystal clear as you watch this film, the original is so much better. This rendition just lacks the charm and heart of the 1994 film, and to me, it came across as rather dull and soulless. Emotions and facial expressions that were clear in the original are just not achievable here, as the animation is trying to make the animals as realistic as possible, which means that most of the time the characters all look quite lifeless.

Visual effects, as amazing as they are, can’t carry a film and I couldn’t help but keep thinking about how unnecessary this film felt. There has been a lot of criticism about the fact that this film is basically a shot-for-shot remake of the original, although these are exaggerated, I would say a good 90% of the film is the same and sadly, the execution of these moments again often doesn’t match up to the original, which again begs the question, why exactly am I watching this version when there’s a far superior one from 25 years ago?

Even the star-studded cast were rather underwhelming, with the exception of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon and Pumbaa respectively, who were fantastic. I found Donald Glover to be rather lacklustre as Simba, which surprised me, and I was not a fan of Beyoncé as Nala at all, she’s not the greatest voice actress in the world and half the time when Nala was talking I was just picturing Foxxy Cleopatra from Goldmember, which I found equally amusing and off-putting. As good as it was to hear James Earl Jones as Mufasa again, his age showed in his performance. Chiwetel Ejiofor is pretty good at Scar, but there was always that lingering thought that bringing back Jeremy Irons would have worked a lot better. Overall, the majority of the performances lacked the energy and enthusiasm that I expected, which is a shame.

The Lion King isn’t necessarily a bad film, as some critics have labeled it, but it feels like a rather unnecessary one. It’s a visual masterpiece, but apart from that, it’s inferior to the 1994 original in almost every way. The energy is lacking and it just doesn’t have the charm that made the film so beloved 25 years ago, which begs the question, why bother? Of course, we know that the answer is: money. No doubt Disney will make a killing from this film, but I doubt I’ll ever be rushing to watch it again.

If I want to watch The Lion King, I’ll stick to the original.

I give The Lion King a 6/10. 


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