Anthony's Film Review - 'The Lion King' (2019)
The remake may be almost exactly like the original, but the excitement and fun are still there...
Once again, I am reviewing a Disney live-action remake of a classic Disney animated film. And once again, I am asking myself one question. How am I going to review a movie that's a remake when I've seen the original and the remake differs pretty much only by the visual format? One may be tempted to just write off this kind of movie because it doesn't offer anything new. For me, however, I try to keep an open mind, while remembering the source material. So I expect that the following review of the 2019 version of Disney's The Lion King will mix my observations of the new with memories of the old.
This is usually where I talk about the film's plot. The description is going to be short this time, because chances are that you're reading this as someone who already saw the original 1994 animated Lion King. I can tell you that the story from start to finish is exactly the same here in this remake. For those of you who haven't seen the animated original, don't worry. The plot is easy to follow and fun to discover for yourself. I can easily sum it up like this: Simba is destined to be the next lion king after his father, but after tragedy strikes, he runs away and grows up to be an adult in a far away place, before he is convinced to come home and take his rightful place as the true king, in place of the villainous lion Scar who has usurped power.
Allow me to move on to the film's visuals. They are stunning to say the least. I imagine that bringing to life all of the animal characters in this movie involved filming actual animals, adding computer-generated imagery to get them to do what you want them to do, and incorporating human voices for the animals' speech. The result is so realistic that it's as if Africa is full of animals that can talk and act and the filmmakers casted these animals to perform according to a written script. Watching the Lion King is almost like watching real animals. Even if they are anthropomorphized with voices, it's like seeing animals up close as they perform a drama for us.
Let's talk about some of the characters. When I first saw the new version of the lion cub Simba on screen, I thought, "Awww, he's so cute." It's not a reaction I had with the 1994 animated Simba because the character was hand-drawn and therefore not real. That's how much of a difference the visuals are between the remake and original. Similarly, as you would expect, the patriarch lion Mufasa, voiced once again by James Earl Jones, looks exactly like a real lion. Even the villainous Scar, voiced this time by Chiwetel Ejiofor, looks so real. Scar may not look like a snarling caricature as in the animated original, but the character's facial marks, emaciated body, unhappy expression, and menacing voice still make him rather frightening.
I won't go over every major character in The Lion King, but I'll definitely talk about two other characters. In the second half of the film when Simba is in exile far from home, we are introduced to Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, voiced respectively by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen. These two characters are so delightful and funny to see, even more so than their animated counterparts in 1994. The computer animation allows these two realistic animals to have lively facial expressions, and the great vocal performances by Eichner and Rogen really make the characters come alive. This is another example of how this remake is faithful to what made the original great, while sprinkling just a little new material to make it fresh.
Let's talk about the music. The Lion King in 1994 has a nice musical score, plus plenty of memorable songs. You can find it all here once again. It's nice to hear newer renditions of familiar favorites, namely "Circle of Life," "I Just Can't Wait to Be King," "Be Prepared," and "Hakuna Matata." Oh, and don't forget "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," the great tune that Elton John performed for the 1994 film.
Even if the core of the film is all-too familiar, this new version of The Lion King is great to see. You won't be disappointed if you want this remake to capture what made the original so fantastic. And for those who prefer to watch computer-animated films rather than traditionally animated films, particular the next generation of kids, this movie will put them on the same page as those who have seen the original, like the adults who were themselves kids in the 1990s. At this point, maybe it isn't a bad idea for Disney to remake its animated classics as live-action films. Not to say it's necessary. I wouldn't complain if Disney never embarked on this path. But now that it has, I might as well enjoy it. And I certainly did with the 2019 version of The Lion King.
Anthony's Rating: 10/10