The Lion King

lion_king_ver2STARS3If you’ve never seen The Lion King, the animated feature from 1994, you can add an additional star to my review.  You’re really going to enjoy this version.  Also, welcome to planet earth.  If you have seen it – (which applies to most of us) – then this variant gets a little harder to recommend.  Over the 25 years since its release, the original has become one of Disney’s most beloved pictures.  Obviously remaking a hallowed “masterpiece” is going to incur the wrath of movie lovers who think classic films are sacrosanct and shouldn’t be redone.  I can appreciate that mentality.  I also understand that movies, like songs, can be “covered” and that’s the approach to take with this new rendition.

The Lion King (1994) is a refreshingly simple story full of captivating characters and deep emotion.  Written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, this current adaptation has been ever so slightly updated by Jeff Nathanson.  It’s not hard to take this material and make an enchanting movie.  For the most part, screenwriter Nathanson and director Jon Favreau have chosen to make a film that is largely a shot-for-shot recreation of the original with minimal changes.  The justification for this reinterpretation has been that this is a “live-action” portrayal.  But that description is not entirely accurate.  This is in truth another animated interpretation using CGI to render the animals as faithful versions of their previously hand-drawn selves.  However, the beasts of this vast African savanna still talk and occasionally burst into song.  So the realism is kind of an odd blend of nature mixed with the former musical.  The presentation is not unlike the CGI tools that director Jon Favreau utilized on his critically and monetarily successful adaptation of The Jungle Book in 2016.  This live-action depiction has been greeted with a lot less critical enthusiasm and I’m somewhat perplexed.  The visuals here are even more extraordinary looking.  In contrast, the public at large seems to agree as this has been enthusiastically greeted by audiences.

The Lion King is a breathtaking wonder and as a photographic work of art, it is astonishing.   The animators have realistically rendered these creatures down to every last hair on their furry bodies.   Mammals communicate in a variety of ways.  The illustrators preserve the way an animal emotes and reacts which is quite different from the earlier film where the expressions were more energetic.  The artists have to convey these feelings through a heightened stance or the kinds of facial responses you’d expect of an animal in order to uphold that illusion.  Sympathy is often derived from the situation in which a creature is placed.  For example, the fate of Mufasa endures as a powerful moment because we feel sorrow when harm comes to a living thing.  It’s almost akin to watching a nature documentary at times.

The Lion King is entertaining.  As a technological marvel, it’s a miracle to behold.  The beasts are unbelievably lifelike.  However, these mammals do talk and sing.  That certainly adds an extra element of relatability.  However, this remake doesn’t top the 1994 version, nor does it add anything new or innovative to the story.  There’s more flatulence.  I’ll give it that.  The cast also boasts a list of famous performers: Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner.  With the exception of James Earl Jones who reprises his role as Mufasa, the vocal performances are less affecting this time around.  The visuals partially make up for that deficiency.  Contemplating such natural renditions of these characters while they sing and dance is rather strange but oddly fascinating.  Timon the meerkat (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa the warthog (Seth Rogen) were cute cuddly creatures in the previous film.  Here they are decidedly less so.  Yet I can’t help but admire the movie’s adherence to true to life detail.  The pair get the most comedic bits.  Some are self-aware meta moments.  They acknowledge how Simba ages during the passage of time montage in the “Hakuna Matata” song.  They also sing a few bars of “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. These added details are pretty rare though.  At best this is a gorgeous evocation of the superior original.  At worst, it’s an unnecessary update.

07-18-19

7 Responses to “The Lion King”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    To me I never bought the realistic animals were singing or talking so I felt no emotional connection and since it’s a story that lives and dies on its emotion it all fell flat. Aside from the photorealism it was super bland and dull

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I guess I realize animals can’t really talk or sing so it wasn’t necessary for me to “buy” into their ability to perform those functions.

      I love the classic story. The fact that the filmmakers preserved the same plot essentially ensured that I would still be entertained by this classic tale.

      Like

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        It’s a fundamental flaw of the concept. In the traditional animated film I’m fully immersed in the characters and the emotions. In this I wasnt. The story did nothing new so I was just bored by a bland ineffective film

        Like

      • Yes, I got your point when you said you “felt no emotional connection” in your previous comment. The story didn’t need to do something new for me because it’s a great story. I’m just repeating myself as well. You weren’t emotionally involved. I was. Personal taste. Agree to disagree I guess. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Fair enough. I was just responding to your comment about knowing realistic animals cant sing or talk. Of course I know that which is why the concept of having photorealistic animals do such things is fundamentally flawed. Anway to each their own

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great job on the lifelike characters. Scar could’ve been better. Too much Beyoncé. 3 1/2 stars

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luckily Beyonce didn’t show up until the 2nd half. True, adult Nala was a larger part than in the animated version, but still a fairly small presence in the overall film.

      Like

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