Friday, July 19, 2019

Movie Review: The Lion King (2019)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Looks great
Cons: Adds nothing to the story we already know
The Bottom Line:
This faithful remake
Brings nothing new to story
But looks amazing

Stunning Visuals in a Pointless Remake

25 years ago, I went to my first opening night of a movie to see the original version of The Lion King.  I loved it then, and I still love the movie.  And the Broadway show.  So, I was intrigued by the new remake of the film enough to go see it on opening night.  (Oh, Thursday night might be considered a preview night, but with as many showings as they are doing, it was opening night.)

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it takes place completely in the animal kingdom.  We meet Simba as a young cub (voiced by JD McCrary).   He is the crown prince of his lion pride, the son of Mufasa (James Earl Jones).  However, his uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), wants the throne and he will do anything to claim it.  What will the outcome of his actions be?

Now, let’s get one thing straight from the beginning.  No matter how Disney may be marketing this, it is NOT a live action remake.  It is a highly realistic CGI remake – a different type of animation, but animation none the less.  And let’s give full credit to the visuals – this movie looks amazing.  These look like real animals on the screen interacting with a real background.  It’s easy to let your mind go and believe everything you are seeing on the screen.  Yes, a few insects look fake, but that’s a minor complaint when you are looking at an almost two-hour movie.  And some of the actions the characters do at times helps make it seem like these are real animals.  They not only look like real animals, but they move like them and at times behave like them.

On the other hand, in all the glut of Disney remakes, this one is the most pointless to date.  It isn’t a shot for shot remake of the original animated version, but it is close, and some scenes certainly are.  They have added about half an hour to the original story, and there are bits and pieces snuck in throughout the movie.  A couple of sequences are obviously expanded, but there is no scene that is clearly added just for this movie.

But that also means there really is nothing new to the story.  As much as some of the recent remakes have been retreads of the main story, they have still added character background or a new sub-plot.  Here, we really get nothing new.  We are watching this movie purely for the stunning visuals.

Now hear me out.  I’m not saying this movie is bad.  The story is still powerful, and it is easy to get into the events as they unfold yet again.  While a few of my favorite lines aren’t here, there are some new ones that are great – especially a joke at the beginning of the climax that had the audience I saw it with laughing hard.

The voice cast does a good job overall.  There are a couple of scenes where things feel a bit off, but that’s probably just my take on it because I’m so used to the original.  James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa, and it is hard to imagine anyone else’s voice bring the character to life.  He’s the only returning actor.  In addition to the ones I already mentions, we get the likes of Donald Glover, Beyonce, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth Rogan, and Bill Eichner.

All the song we love from the animated film are here, and they are easily a highlight of the film.  Fans of the Broadway version will recognize some of the songs from that version in the soundtrack as well.  Honestly, I wish they had fully put them in the film because they are powerful songs that add so much to the characters, but that’s a minor complaint.

I really did enjoy the remake of The Lion King.  It would be nice if the filmmakers had put their own spin on things, but even as it is, this is a visual feast that retells a great story.

1 comment: