• Ashvin

[Review] 'The Lion King': Isn't Photorealistic Computer Animation Still Animation?

Mufasa: Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But a king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king. Remember.

Not as bad as I expected it to be, but it really does not compare to the legacy of its predecessor, the original 1994 version of: The Lion King.

There’s a fair share of things to love about it, but there are many aspects that pull the film down as well.

The biggest winning aspect of the film is Hans Zimmer.

His momentous score elevates the film beyond what’s been filmed. Many potentially lifeless and inanimate scenes are made to feel more passionate and soulful due to the impact of Zimmer’s quite extraordinary music.

Donald Glover’s Simba, Seth Rogen’s Pumbaa and Billy Eichner’s Timon, are major wins for the remake.

Eichner and Roger have unlikely but matchably hilarious chemistry together, bringing in a lot of worthwhile comedy.

Glover not only rocks every note to pitch-perfect harmony, but also owns his voice performance as the film’s lead.

The charisma and energy he brings to the role definitely brings a necessary tone of enlightenment to a film that tends to feel dull at times.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar is a mixed bag for me. Whilst I do like what he’s done with the role, making it his own with his tone, I still feel that it fades in comparison to the sinister and electrifying voice of Jeremy Irons in the classic animated film.

This is very evident throughout Scar’s important scenes, where his insidious nature plays a pivotal role in his dialogue, and even more-so in his shining ballad, “Be Prepared”, which is easily the best song from a villain in a Disney film.

Whilst Jeremy Irons’ Scar from the ‘94 original is easily one of the best villains (period), Ejiofor’s seems to pale in comparison, feeling rather neutral rather than chaotic, as Scar originally was.

Three voice actors were key to the first half of the film, JD McCrary as young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as young Nala, and the one and only, James Earl Jones, reprising his role as Mufasa.

The three of them dominated that first half with a desperate vibrancy the film urgently needed. Not only that, but they nailed their songs as well, unlike many of the classics in the second half of the film, like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”, which I felt was heavily butchered.

Talking about THAT song, what was the film’s deal with it? It made no sense. A song about feeling the love “tonight”, yes, at NIGHT, takes place during the daytime, right in the middle of the day, when the sun is up and shining. That bothered me a lot.

Why butcher a classic like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” and then make it more insensible by placing the track in the middle of the daytime, in quite an empty manner, so as to take away the feeling the song was supposed to give the audience and add to Simba and Nala’s characters and relationship (like it did in the original)?

Sticking to my problems with the film – Beyoncé. I’ve always thought she’s a good vocalist, but I’ve never been a fan of her songs – and the incompatibility continues. Her songs simply do not fit into the film, as well as the tracks from the original she participates in.

Whilst a few of her lines were delivered very well, especially the ones with Simba, her voicing of Nala felt very out-of-touch with the animation, as well as oddly unfitting to the character. The voice just didn’t match, and the lines just weren’t delivered right, which was of utmost importance, with the remake relying on voice performances to accompany their CGI.

Sticking with the film’s problems, its biggest downer is yet to be addressed – the animation.

Although gorgeous and beautifully and realistically life-like, the animation lacks emotion, which is plenty of what made The Lion King be the classic it is – the remake missed the fiery and heartfelt soul of the original.

The animation felt too much like a National Geographic documentary at times, rather than a fictitious film from Disney, about a lion that rules over a kingdom. Though that really doesn’t take away much from the film’s well-developed animation, it’s the emotionless nature of this new photorealistic animation that takes away the soul of the original from the remake.

We don’t get to feel the rage Scar felt towards his brother, Mufasa, and his nephew, Simba. We don’t get to feel the lost feeling of Simba, after losing his dad, Mufasa. We don’t get to feel the carefree joy of Timon and Pumbaa. We only get to see it instead of feeling it, mostly in part due to the soulless nature of the animation, taking away expressions and emotions that made The Lion King (1994) an instant classic and an animated masterpiece in storytelling.

THE LION KING (2019) is what happens when you combust from repetition. The entire film is the same as the original, just reduced in impact due to the emotionless animation, and unnecessarily modernized in its music, that feels odd, and takes away the heart of the film.

Although a talented cast comes close to saving it from falling below par, The Lion King proves itself to be another unnecessary Disney remake, in a long line of unnecessary and worthless Disney remakes.

With this I beg to studios, stop remaking films, especially not films that have established itself as classics or have been adapted well, like The Lion King and Aladdin. Instead, make new films, with new ideas and concepts, from young, diverse and innovative directors and writers who are ready to bring in fresh new stories and interesting forms of storytelling.

Be bold – out with remakes, in with originals.

Score: ★★½

To encourage the production of new ideas and original films, check out the teaser trailer for Pixar’s Onward, out in cinemas March 2020:



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