As Disney continues to re-imagine and re-release their Renaissance collection as live-action films, the animated classic is brought to life and introduced once again to Disney fans and curious filmgoers alike.
Director Jon Favreau brings a similar element to The Lion King as he had done in previous years with The Jungle Book as he uses photo-realistic rendering and a similar pattern of creating a build-up through dialogue to each musical number. The score holds true to the 1994 soundtrack, which can easily make-or-break a remake, and Hans Zimmer dominates again with his orchestrations.
Visually, The Lion King prevails and goes above and beyond. The details are crafted on a meticulous level. Disney does not shy away from flexing their ability to animate. Incredible montages and time lapses of computer-generated African savannahs rival National Geographic documentaries that are untouched by artificial enhancements. Howbeit, the scarcity of facial expressions in each character becomes distracting and monotonous quickly. It can’t quite sell the emotional impact that it aims to reach.
The voice cast walks on the fine line of being fantastic and falling short. Billy Eichner as Timon is the most memorable as his natural chaotic energy permeates into the manic meerkat, making his frenzied persona perfect for the character. Pumbaa allows Seth Rogen’s mellow, easygoing attitude to supplement Eichner’s high energy and the pair compliment each other well. John Oliver is the perfect choice for “anxious and rambling Brit,” or Zazu, Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) frantic, feathered advisor. The lack of satirical political commentary is disappointing.
Donald Glover and Beyonce are beyond prominent in the music industry and have a strong pulse on social influence, but Glover’s voice is a bit high for Simba, and Nala seems to be less and less relevant in this adaptation.
The Lion King attempts to hold onto its roots without being a carbon copy, but the film’s moral, ‘remember who you are,’ escapes itself. The plot diverges from itself and manages to forget crucial details or scenes that hopeful Disney enthusiasts would like to see. There are a few stylistic differences that are genuinely confusing and nonsensical. You would assume that “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” would take place, you know, at night, or that Rafiki (John Kani) would carry his iconic staff with him through the film, and not just in the third act. Favreau’s direction takes the third act and darkens it more than it has to be, as the final battle is overdramatized and dizzying with slow-motion effects. There are only so many slowed down lion punches that can be packed in one sequence.
Verdict: 6/10. While The Lion King may not be able to go toe-to-toe with the Renaissance precursor, it still holds enough of that comforting Disney feel to gratify and amuse moviegoers. Even while it stumbles over itself from trying to meet expectation, the film is lively, vivid and exudes nostalgia.