The Lion King 2019 edition is the newest retelling of the 1994 classic animation film with the same name. This is one of those were movies where I can spoil the entire film, because who hasn’t seen the original lion king by now? It still holds up marvelously, so the question does naturally come up, do we actually need this movie? Is there anything of merit in this version, besides the animals looking realistic? Is there any creativity in doing a live-action shot for shot remake of the original.
Is this movie warranted? No. Was it absolutely necessary? Not at all. Was I entertained while watching it? Yes, kind of. It’s an entertaining movie that follows beats for beats the same story as the original with a couple of things done slightly differently. Is it grittier? Sure, but that doesn’t make for a better movie. The animated version was already perfect and the filmmakers must have known that people would compare the two. This isn’t like Mulan where I understand why Disney is making a live-action adaptation. A story of that scope and size and importance can be really cool on the big screen. I also really enjoyed Aladdin, which also came out this year. But Guy Ritchie did do some things differently than in the original. They added songs, they changed a few story beats, and added a few elements, they made the story feel fresh while The Lion King feels like the same old story.
Jon Favreau is a good director. He isn’t one of my favorites but I like Iron Man 1 and The Jungle Book and it’s natural that he’d want to tackle this new live-action version for Disney. It isn’t a badly directed film it just films a bit uninspired and lacking in any type of creativity. There is nothing new or jaw-dropping here that will feed a child’s imagination like the original did or like Aladdin or Peter Pan or even Mulan. It’s not magical or inspiring. The best I can compliment this remake is by saying that I was entertained.
The animals don’t have the same depth or emotion behind them as in the animated version. They don’t express themselves as well and the dialogue almost comes off a bit wooden and uncharismatic. James Earl Jones as Mufasa was probably the best voice actor among all of them and he’s done Mufasa before so that isn’t surprising. Donald Glover was fine as Simba. He could have been voiced by anybody, same with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. He wasn’t menacing or intimating like Jeremy Irons was. His voice kind of fell flat and his version of Be Prepared is pathetic. The scene where Mufasa dies comes across as almost laughable and that’s unfortunate because in the original it’s one of the saddest deaths in movie history.
Beyonce wasn’t terrible as Nala but again none of the voice cast stood out with one exception. Seth Rogan as Pumba. Of course, you’d recognize his voice anywhere, so that’s not surprising. He was very funny as Pumba and Billy Eichner was also really funny as Timon. They were the heart and soul of this film but they’re great in the original too so that’s not surprising. The landscapes in this film aren’t even breathtaking, to be honest. The animated version did look better and cleaner and Africa looked more alive than it did here.
The circle of life scene doesn’t look as impressive or as visually brilliant. While the technology is groundbreaking, it still has room for improvement. It doesn’t evoke the emotion, as well as the hand-drawn, did back in 1994, and that’s a shame because that movie was filled with emotion and depth. It kind of feels like you’re watching the nature channel at times with CGI animals. While I was watching the movie, I had a good time, it was predictable and awfully familiar, but I was entertained. But would I watch it again? Honestly, no. I would watch the 1994 version again and I think most people will too and this one will soon be forgotten. Of course, that’s just a hunch, but who knows.
Overall, the lion king has impressive visuals, a few added elements, a cool recreation of the classic songs we all know and love, and a talented voice cast, but it’s not enough to justify its own existence and just comes across as a by the numbers remake that offers nothing new to the overall experience.