A lion cub prince, believing himself responsible for his father's
death, flees into exile only to return years later to accept his destiny.
The Lion King (2019)
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Jeff Nathanson
Starring Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones,
John Oliver, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Kani,
Alfre Woodard, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key
Remake of 1994's The Lion King
Oscar Nominations - Best Visual Effects
As I stated in my previous review, I'm a lifelong fan of Disney's The Lion King, so my expectations for this live-action (kinda) remake were pretty high. I confess myself disappointed, but visually, this film has no equal. The visual effects in this film are off the charts spectacular. The animals' movements are realistic, the landscapes are incredible, and I believe this is the film to beat for the 2020 technical Oscars. But apart from that, there is nothing in this remake that eclipses the original. Not the voice talent, not the updated songs, not the shot-for-shot cinematography, nothing. But it isn't terrible. It's just destined to be forgettable.
Aladdin brought a new flavor to a classic character, Beauty and the Beast was perfectly cast, and The Jungle Book reimagined the classic story into something new with a familiar flavor. The Lion King does none of this, and instead opts to do the exact same thing as the original in every instance. The dialogue is verbatim and even the shots are framed identically. But the voice cast is terrible, especially James Earl Jones who sounded like he was reading off cue cards. Gone is the brave, kingly Mufasa, replaced by a semi-retired actor who was clearly cashing a check. The only ones who stood out for me are Chiwetel Ejiofor, who performed a decent Scar (but didn't hold a candle to Jeremy Irons), and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, who did a servicable Timon and Pumbaa. But Donald Glover, Beyoncé, and John Oliver among others were poorly cast and did not do justice to the flawless voice work done in the 1994 original.
I wanted to feel the warm, familiar embrace of the original, and there were times where I did. The opening rendition of "Circle of Life" stirred the same triumphant, nostalgic feelings I had as a kid, but nothing looked right. You can't have the same wide range of emotions in hyper-realistic lions that you have in cartoon lions. They look too real, and it takes away from the performance. The bright colors and fantastic African landscape of the original is also replaced by a beige, realistic but boring African landscape that matches the environment. This is one case where Disney should've left it in the vault.