The original animated film from 1994 and the “live action” remake that is out this month both show us the same story of Simba the lion. He is born to Mufasa, who is the king of Pride Rock, and the movie shows us this scrappy little cub while he spends his days in the savanna fantasizing about and enjoying his royalty status.
His big ego and even bigger gullibility make him extremely vulnerable to his uncle Scar’s evil manipulation. After the death of his father, he runs off into the jungle and embraces the “hakuna matata” life, which is the Swahili phrase for “no worries” that he learned from the iconic duo of a meerkat and a warthog. His friend Nala eventually helps him see the truth, and that being great king is earned, and not succeeded. He makes a brave step forward in reclaiming what is his.
However, in the iconic and beloved animated movie, the return of the rightful king is triumphant, while in the live action, it seems nobody learned Simba’s lesson. The movie takes away shots, heavily relies on the original music of Hans Zimmer, and turns to the legacy of the great company. To put it simply, The Lion King (2019) is a rather arrogant successor that has not found its roar. The popular character of Zazu sums it up rather well, with it being “a rather uninspiring thing.”
Jon Favreau is a great director, and actor, but there is a lot of craft but also a complete absence of art in the movie. The CGI elements are gorgeous, and the water, rocks, plants, dust, and fur all really look like the real deal. You can use the movie to see what our planet is really like. Still, unlike Dumbo and Aladdin, the whole team behind The Lion King did not change anything and went for a modernized copy.
Furthermore, The Lion King delivers a shot-for-shot remake of a movie where lions dance with the elephants, and the often boasted “realism” does not bring the source material any closer to the ecology and culture of Africa, nor does it truly express the emotions of characters. The movie is in constan.
Animation from the original that made Simba look so innocent, Pumbaa like a complete riot, and Scar as a devilish antagonist have all been removed to achieve the realness of true animals. Iconic songs are also butchered and changed for worse, as instead of color and design of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” we have swirling cameras, choppy editing work, and an exhausting amount of crossing the reality marker. Ina ddition, although Chiwetel Ejiofor is amazing as Scar, his evil song “Be Prepared” is also such a victim, as it has been reduced to a rhythmic reading of a dialogue.
We can all agree that the cast is star-studded, which is why everyone expects marvelous performances. They had to be fabulous to make the movie more. We will be honest, the dew of them really are. Ejiofor adds a crisp edge to the voice of Scar, and really stands out among the lions. Timon of Billy Eichner is transcendent, and he pops up in the middle of the story movie when all hope is lost. His quips and jokes with Seth Rogen’s Pumbaa could probably last for days. The great James Earl Jones who returned as Mufasa furthers the fact that the movie cannot escape its great past, although nobody can replace the brilliant actor.
However, although Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter are technically in the movie, the voiceovers that has received a layer of footage over it does not for some reason feel right with the movements of mouths and eyes. Their “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” duet is a dizzying blur reminiscent of an MP3 put together with a video. Fans deserved more from these two huge stars.
The faithful adaptation of screenwriter Jeff Nathanson even further exposes the thin plot of the original. The timeline is not clear, and the devotion Nala has towards Simba, as well as their immediate romance after spending years apart, does not seem feasible. Although the movie has 30 more minutes on the original, it does not use it effectively to add dimensions to either Simba, Nala, or anything else in the world of Pride Rock.
The movie does this one thing where each scene asks the fans to admire the marvelous CGI recreation of their favorite childhood animation. The original hyenas are a pack of sidekicks, while here, they are gnarled, slobbering animals who will probably terrify small children in the audience when they go on the hunt for young Simba and Nala. Also, Disney cannot escape the modern times, and scraps the breaking of the fourth wall with jokes that worked for every age group.
The new adaptation has beauty and awe, and stunning moments like the blood-orange sun that rises above the horizon while Lebo M’s vocals play in the back, or a god’s eye view of Simba in the arid nothingness. Also, the close shot of Rafiki while he is cracking open a fruit and announcing “He’s alive!” and several others are all moments first seen in the early 1990s, only back then, a team of inspiring artists was tasked with bringing an original animated work of art to life. Nothing can be done for the second time as well as it was done for the first time, especially when it comes to capturing the hearts of the fans and fulfilling their expectations.