Disney continues to adapt its own classic animated catalog with a “live-action” remake of what many people, including myself, believe is the best of the Disney animated films. The Lion King, at its core, is a dark tale of a son losing his father and being forced to find his identity again after the tragedy. Anyone who has seen the original knows the story of this remake, as it follows the plot almost verbatim. It is more or less an HD upgrade, using CGI animation rather than hand-drawn animation.
That CGI animation is by far the best part of the movie. “Live-action” is a loose term used to describe this movie, because the whole thing is actually animated and just meant to look live action. There’s an incredible amount of detail in both the environments and the animals. It’s a stunning feat and has set the new bar for effects and animation. Despite there being both an Avengers movie and a Star Wars movie released this year, I have a hard time seeing anything beating this out for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.
Unfortunately, those amazing visual effects end up feeling like more of a gimmick than anything else. Because the story is almost identical to the original, this one needed to surpass the first in at least one aspect, but fails to do so. Whether it’s the voice acting performances, the songs, or the personalities of the characters, it’s all done better in the 1994 version. Besides showing off the visual effects, there’s no point to this movie. If you want to watch a Lion King movie, you already have a great one. It’ll take less of your time too, as this one is about 20 minutes longer. I can see where they added a couple things here and there, but they don’t add anything to the movie at all.
With that said, besides the effects, there are a couple things in here that do stand out among everything in this new adaptation. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen seem to be the only ones with any sort of personality and are perfectly cast as Timon and Pumba. John Oliver also does a good job as Zazu. Those 3 definitely turned in the best performances in a movie where most others came off as very wooden. Hans Zimmer also does some cool things with the score here. I don’t know that it is quite as good as his original score, but it does set some of the big moments up really well.
Overall, I struggle to recommend this movie. If you’ve seen this original, I don’t know how much you will get out of this one. The visuals are outstanding, and if that is what you’re interested in, you’ll probably enjoy it. But if you want to watch The Lion King, you probably have a better version at home to watch.
Mostly because of the technical achievement, The Lion King roars its way into a mediocre 10-4.
Ratings from low to high: Felony, Misdemeanor, 10-4, Positive ROP, Golden Donut