Earlier today I visited my local cinema to watch The Lion King. The film – a live-action retelling of the 1994 animated classic – is the latest in an ever expanding array of Disney remakes.
While I adore the original version of The Lion King – a film about a lion cub who learns what it takes to become a king – I must admit I was not in a huge rush to watch this new take. I had a few issues with the recent reworking of Aladdin and I think the novelty of all these Disney remakes is starting to wear off.
But anyway, a week or so after its release (and nursing a ‘slight’ hangover) I popped along to the flicks to give the movie a go. And I’m glad I did, as I really enjoyed The Lion King.
First off the bat, you should know that this isn’t an all-new Lion King – it’s pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the animated feature, with a few adjustments here and there. Those adjustments largely include the addition of a Beyoncé song, and a few tweaks to the dialogue.
Speaking of which, actor James Earl Jones reprises his role of Mufasa from the original film, so in some cases he’s simply repeating what he’s said before. Nice work if you can get it.
Now I could lambaste the film for its lack of originality, but as stated above I actually liked what was on offer. I believe this is largely because director Jon Favreau has taken the ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach, so not to mess up the formula.
The original version of The Lion King is one of Disney’s best animated features, and Favreau knows this. Instead of making unnecessary changes to the story, he instead focuses his energies on the visuals and making the characters as real as possible – and this is where the movie excels.
The Lion King looks fantastic. At times, the CGI used in this picture is stunning and it’s easy to forget that these aren’t real animals on the big screen.
Maybe it was the faint traces of alcohol in my system, but it honestly felt like I was watching a wildlife documentary – the sort of thing you would see on the Discovery Channel. Of course, every so often the animals would shatter the illusion by bursting into song, but when they weren’t belting out ditties I was lost in the wild.
And yes, all of the iconic Lion King songs are present in the movie; although Be Prepared is downgraded from a tune to a rousing speech (to arguably a lesser effect). My favourite song is I Just Can’t Wait to be King, which is simply a joy to watch.
The new material – the previously mentioned Beyoncé song – gets sandwiched in towards the end of the movie and while it doesn’t detract from the picture, it is very forgettable (as is Queen B’s performance in general).
What isn’t forgettable is the pairing of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon and Pumba. These characters were a highlight of the 1994 ‘toon and they are a highlight once more – especially when the get to sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight.
So, great visuals, good songs, and James Earl Jones – what’s not to like, right? But would I recommend The Lion King?
I would recommend watching The Lion King, because I certainly had a blast, but my recommendation comes with a big caveat.
While I enjoyed today’s cinema trip and was happy to dive back into this story, I do have to recognise that this movie really isn’t necessary. As discussed with my review of Aladdin, the original film was so good that it is the definitive version of the story and the same remains true of The Lion King – with the exception of huge financial gain, there was no creative reason to remake this movie.
BUT… so long as you are happy to pay to watch a live-action take on a film you’ve already seen, then it’s hard not to be positive about it. The original is still my favourite version of this tale, but I liked what was on offer.