“The Lion King,” released July 19, is another one of the many remakes that Disney has presented. In recent years, Disney directed its attention to recreating live-action films of their animated originals.
“The Lion King” was originally released in 1994 and featured traditional animation. While the 2019 remake is not live-action, it’s as close to live-action as it’s going to get.
“The Lion King’s” CGI is so realistic the viewer can forget it’s animated — at least until the animals burst into song. The film received a face-lift, but the photorealistic animals had some issues with facial expressions. After Mufasa falls to his death, Simba lacks a mournful facial expression. Without a way to see the characters emote, it takes the viewer out of the film world and makes the scenes feel awkward. This is, by no means, the actor’s fault. In fact, the character’s dialogue filled the role of portraying emotions that the facial expressions should have. For instance, young Simba’s (JD McCrary) dread-filled dialogue displays how someone would feel in that scenario.
The actors’ performances could only do so much because this film was all CGI. Physical characteristics in this film felt blank and removed. The characters in the 1994 film version added personalities. For example, the hyena trio — Shenzi, Banzai and Ed — had both physical and social characteristics that made each of them unique. From Ed’s tongue sticking out to the tufts of hair on Shenzi’s head to Ed’s crazy laugh, the details made each character unique. This 2019 remake of the film leaves characters with no real distinction from one another. With more attention to visuals comes a loss of character development. After 25 years, James Earl Jones reprised his role as Mufasa, and he was able to bring the same energy to the his character — wise and all-knowing.
The remake stays true to the original in the sense that it was a literal shot-for-shot remake. The same sunrise that introduces us to “The Lion King” world is a sight to everyone in the theater. Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the plot doesn’t offer anything new to the audience.
Memorable songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice bring life to the screen, and they are still as distinctive as they were two and a half decades ago. Beyonce’s “Spirit” both empowered and enlightened the film’s themes of responsibility and social and physical coexistence. The song matches the quality and tone of John and Rice’s music, meaning it will be a memorable soundtrack past the film’s release date.
Disney is following the nostalgia trend by remaking their memorable films. “The Lion King” of 2019 is no exception and is a sight to behold with its visuals and music, but it is better to watch or stream the film at home. There is no added incentive to watch this film in a theater, and people who don’t plan on watching the film are not missing out on much. On the other hand, people who want a more immersive experience into one of their favorite Disney tales should snag a ticket. But for people uninterested in remakes, there is no shame in only watching the original.
2.5 out of 5 stars