“The king has returned.” Rafiki’s voice, though raspy and old, rings in my mind like asweet melody. Memories rush in at the slightest mention of Simba, Mufasa or the Pride Lands; memories of elementary school summer days spent behind the TV screen, watching The Lion King on DVD.
The amount of times I have seen the 1994 Disney classic is innumerable, as I know the movie well enough to recite the script before it plays out. Made in a time when 2D animation was at its peak, every frame of The Lion King came to life, with eye popping color and extremely expressive characters. From Scar’s twisted smile, to Timone and Pumbaa’s wild eyed expressions, the animals on screen exhibited human emotions which were tangible. It was the epitome of 2D animated movies for me, and is my basis for judging every animated movie after it.
With the announcement of the live action Lion King, I was understandably skeptical. Directed by Jon Favreau, the new Lion King brought Simba back to the big screen. With his previous work on The Jungle Book, Favreau improved upon the original 1967 classic. As a movie that needed updating, The Jungle Book adaptation was well made and thoroughly enjoyable.
However, this was not the case with The Lion King. It was a movie that was perfect to begin with and never needed to be remade, just like the 2014 Maleficent, 2015 Cinderella, 2017 Beauty and the Beast movies and so on and so forth. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised with each of those remakes, as each brought something new to the table: one gave a new point of view, the other a tighter script and the latter new scenes and songs. What makes The Lion King disappointing, though, is that there was nothing like the above to justify its creation.
The script had been copied almost exactly from the 1994 classic, with minute changes to the plot which scarcely added any depth. Many of the expressions and quirks of the original characters are lost for the sake of realism, especially Scar’s mannerisms. As a shot-for-shot remake, I was generally underwhelmed by the film, which is a shame because there were a few notable factors to this adaptation.
For example, the star-studded voice casting was spot on, best shown through Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa, and James Earl Jones’ tear-inducing return as Mufasa.
Much can be said about the CGI as well, which was impressive to say the least. Like the original did with 2D animation, the CGI pushed boundaries and the medium to its limits, but this time to bring photo-realism in a way never seen before. Jon Favreau and the special effects team’s work is commendable in making the film, which was bound to be a hit.
So, the question stands, is it worth watching? A simple answer is that if you’ve been meaning to watch The Lion King after years of never having seen it, it may be worth a watch. Building off of the masterpiece that was the original, the movie will still entertain and in the end, that’s all that matters to moviegoers. As the film has already passed one billion dollars at the box office, The Lion King is one of the biggest movies of the year, even if it isn’t the best.