The Lion King 2019 dazzles visually but falls flat in necessity

BY LEXI GROSS

So far in 2019, Disney continues its money-making mission by recycling its animated classics with “live-action” remakes. From reboots like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Walt Disney has earned over three billion dollars from its thirteen live-action remakes. If you are a fellow Disney lover like myself, then regardless of mixed opinions and critic reviews, you’ll continue to be lining up at the movie theatre. 

This time, the 1994 animated masterpiece, The Lion King, got a reboot of its own. There really wasn’t a reason to remake this classic except to show off the dazzling visual effects. Although it wasn’t live-action, it still possesses all the immersive detail that transports us. It is jaw-droppingly photorealistic! Every hair on the animals is in place and every footprint raises a puff of dust. It really makes you believe that Pride Rock is a real place in Africa. However, the big issue with realism is that we lose expressions. 

The characters have lost all human expressions on their faces. Maybe they wanted to stay logical to authenticity but the characters still talk and sing. It almost feels a little weird and disconnected. It may take time to accept lifelike looking animals talking like cartoon characters, but the ground-breaking technical skill in which they are brought to life makes the journey worthwhile. 

Thankfully, the lack of expressions is covered by a talented voice cast that brings back some of the energy to the characters. The actors that stole the show for me personally had to be Billy Eichner as the meerkat Timon, and Seth Rogen as the warthog Pumbaa. This Disney dynamic duo had us laughing and forgetting about our worries all throughout our childhood. It was only right to keep the characters’ light-hearted humor and thankfully that’s exactly what Eichner and Rogen did. With some new jokes and personal touches added, these two actors stole the show in the second half of the film. 

Other promising performances came from Donald Glover as Simba with his playful voice and charm, but also his powerful leadership. Beyoncé voices his love interest, Nala and although her dialogue performance fell kind of flat with no direction, her musical performance added to the moving and uplifting aspect the Lion King has been known for. Her duet with Glover in “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is utterly gorgeous as well as the film’s new original song “Spirit.” 

Chiwetel Ejiofor who voices the villainous Scar, raises the film’s dramatic stakes turning the villain more malevolent and gives him some snarling energy. However, I was very disappointed with this film’s rendition of Scar’s song “Be Prepared” as it lacked the captivating nature of the original. But I still have to applaud Ejiofor for his work. And of course, James Earl Jones reprising his role from the 1994 film as Mufasa had to be one of the most exciting aspects for me. I could not possibly imagine anyone else doing this role and reciting those timeless speeches to Simba. Jones delivered carefully-calibrated emotions that strike a balance between fearsome and feeling. And I am so happy that they chose to keep his role as close to the original as they could. Long live the king, am I right?

In all honesty, the 2019 live-action remake of The Lion King could never beat the 1994 original. Although this remake fixed a few plotholes from the first version, the original will hold a special place in all of our hearts. The 2019 Lion King never strays far from the original film which I considered a good thing. Some scenes are even shot for shot. But I say if it’s not broke then it doesn’t need to be fixed. 

Despite mixed critic reviews and the lack of expression and emotion in the characters’ faces, I did enjoy this reboot of The Lion King. However, I don’t think it was a necessary remake as the original was already perfect in my eyes. I did enjoy the visual effects and it excites me to see how much more stunning they can get in the future. I would give this movie a 7.5 out of 10 stars. I would definitely watch this film again but if I have the choice, I think I would prefer to watch the original classic. 

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