The Stunning Visual Achievement Satisfies the Justification of a Remake
Out of all the Disney remakes that came out this last few years, The Lion King was the one I was the most excited for. I did hear mix reactions out of friends that loved the original and critics that saw the movie so I tried to keep that in mind while watching the movie.
The first thing I want to say is that this movie is stunning. The CGI is amazing and it’s crazy how far along we have come in technology. There was not a moment in this movie where I was taken out of the experience because of the visual presentation. I also saw it in 3D, and, while there were some fun moments, I didn’t feel it necessary to see it like that. Though definitely try to see on a big screen because it is unbelievable.
One critique I heard going about the movie was that the quest for realism in the portrayal of the animals resulted in a lack of facial expressions. This means you are not going to see a lion grinning. Though it is more realistic, I promise it does not detract from all the emotional moments; All it does is place a greater emphasis on the voice acting.
Likewise, most of the cast does a tremendous job carrying the dramatic and comedic weight of the movie. Which is great, but does shine a light on those that did not perform as well as the rest.
JD McCrary, playing Young Simba, sounds robotic at points and can’t always hit the emotional notes you would desire, but he does do a phenomenal job when it comes to singing, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. He is definitely outshined by Young Nala, excellently done by Shahadi Wright Joseph (who, to be fair, performs the role in ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway).
There were also points where John Oliver felt stiff in his performance as Zazu, and I’m a huge fan of him. In his defense, he is asked to do a lot with a lot of lines spoken quickly in some of these scenes.
To be honest, the person that shines the most for me was Seth Rogen. Not only does he own the role of Pumba, he really holds his own along with the beautiful singing of Billy Eichner (Bravo good sir).
Speaking of the music, most of the songs matched their original counterpart either by replicating it well or making some tweaks that worked. The most disappointing for me was “Be Prepared.” The original is my favorite Disney song ever, and the 2019 version I feel misses the mark.
Beyoncé contributed a song called “Spirit” that appeared in the movie. Though the song was well executed, its modern musical composition seemed to distract compared to the rest of the soundtrack and took me out of the movie for a scene, which is one example of the different changes made for this movie in comparison to the original.
Of everything added or changed, I would say half of them worked for The Lion King. Certain scenes or moments were stretched, which most of the time didn’t do the movie any favors. The changes that worked added depth to characters and helped move the story along instead of slowing it down. You can also say the same of how the iconic moments played out in this remake. Half of them worked and the other half seemed to either underwhelm or overdo it.
This brings the directing. I am a fan of Jon Favreau, and his work with the Jungle Book played a part in my excitement for this movie. Yet, his direction left a bit to be desired, in some choices in the performances we saw, but mostly in the pacing. The second half of the movie feels rushed in dialogue exchanges and seemed strange as to why it made it to the final cut of the movie.
One of the best parts of the movie is definitely Timon and Pumba. The chemistry between Rogen and Eichner had worked splendidly for the movie, and writer, Jeff Nathanson, gives them plenty of time in the story to showcase their comedic ability. One thing that did surprise me is that the pair’s humor happily crossed the line into meta-humor. Fans of the original movie would have understood and loved these jokes, yet, if I never saw the original, it would have flown over my head.
Final thought – Make sure you see it in theaters and ONLY see it if you have seen the original.
You can watch ‘The Lion King’ in theatres right now.