To make a long review short, literally, this movie stinks. Just watch the original animated movie, which is perfect in every way.
Rule #1 when doing a remake of a movie. It sure as hell should be better than the original, and if not, don’t waste your time, and don’t waste our time. And with that, The Lion King is the latest victim of Disney converting their animated classics into lackluster live action versions.
Jon Favreau directed both The Jungle Book and The Lion King. The Jungle Book is a prime example where a remake worked. It paid homage to the original, but also added some new story lines that made it more interesting and fun. Favreau played it kind of safe with his adaptation of The Lion King, and it didn’t work this time.
And you have to get the villain right. Shere Khan was outright terrifying in Jungle Book and perfectly voiced by Idris Elba. Scar just looked old, skinny and ready to die at any moment in this version of The Lion King. Granted, Scar is no Mufasa, but he is no pussycat, either. Chiwetel Ejiofor did a good job voicing the character, but was nowhere as villainous and threatening as his animated counterpart. Which one (above) is truly scarier? By the way, it would have been nice if they cast Idris Elba for something in this movie.
I will say that at times, this version of The Lion King looks absolutely stunning and completely life-like. Some of the animals look a little funky, like the elephants, but they sure got Mufasa right. Remember how Aslan looked in The Chronicles Of Narnia? We have come a long way. And it is so hard to believe that everything on screen was made in the digital realm and not filmed somewhere on the plains in the African savanna.
I think that the biggest problem with this movie is that in the original animated Lion King, you can buy those animals talking and singing because they were hand drawn animation and/or cartoons. Cartoons can get away with that stuff, but that just does not work when the characters are photo realistic animals. Looks kind of weird and off-putting. Imagine the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck “Rabbit Season/Duck Season” routine being played out with a real rabbit and a duck. Just doesn’t work.
I think it would have been better if they went with having none of the animals speak at all. Just let the animals be animals and all of their emotions could be shown through their actions and their facial expressions. In a way, it kind of reminded me of Dinosaur, which would have also benefited if there were no speaking dinosaurs. “Ain’t that right, honey lamb?”, said a brontosaurus never.
Another big problem with this movie is that it is almost an exact copy of the original animated version. And when I say exact copy, I mean it is like some kid in school that sat next to you during a test, cheated, and copied all of your answers off of your paper. You did all of the work, and they reaped the rewards of your hard work.
There is paying tribute to a movie, and then there is outright copying. You just watch the opening Circle Of Life scene. At first, I was like, “Wow, this is pretty cool! It looks just like the original!” But then after a few minutes, I was like, “Wait a minute! They are just tracing over the original animation with computer animation!” The longer it played out, I just found it kind of insulting to the original movie. It looks a hell of a lot more realistic, but the original is one of the most beautiful animated films that Disney ever did.
And there is no doubt about it, This movie is about 90% exactly the same, shot for shot, as the original animated movie, with maybe an additional 10% that was thrown in there that really was not needed. Warning, prepare your eyes to roll to the back of your head during a particular “Beauty and the Beast” scene. Oh, boy.
And the bad thing about it being an inferior shot-for-shot remake is that I did find myself saying several times, “Damn. We are only up this part?” I couldn’t wait to get home so I could watch a good version of this film.
Another problem with this movie is the voice cast. For the most part, they lack any passion. I never thought that I would ever utter these words, but I really miss Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Simba. The kid that voiced Young Simba was not very good. His delivery was not believable and it just felt like he was reading his lines in a recording booth. In fact, everyone felt like they were reading lines in a recording booth.
When I first heard that they were bringing back James Earl Jones to voice Mufasa, I thought that it made no sense. Why bring him back and no one else from the original? It just didn’t sit well with me. But I have to say, by far, he was the best voice actor in the movie. I also thought John Oliver did a really good job as Zazu.
Everyone else was subpar compared to the original voice actors. You sit there and you start to miss Mathew Broderick’s voice as Simba and realize just how good he was. And back then, I thought Broderick was the weakest link. You would think that Donald Glover would have done a much better job voicing Simba, but he was not convincing as at all in this version, and he felt like he was just phoning it in. I also didn’t buy that Young Simba and Older Simba were the same character, if that makes any sense. And Rafiki was boring and not fun at all without Robert Guillaume’s voice. And as for Nathan Lane… you, sir, were sincerely missed!
The songs that we are all familiar with from the original movie are back, but nowhere nearly as good as the originals. There is a new song called “Spirit” that’s performed by Beyonce, and it’s not very memorable and is played oddly during a classic scene, and it just does not work.
But as bad as the songs are, they are nowhere near as bad as the musical score for the film. It has no life to it at all and it sounds at times like elevator music. And where are the drums? I really think the drummer called in sick because there is no pounding beat during key musical ques that made the original movie such a classic experience. It feels like this music was cheaply made on a keyboard with no live instruments.
The original soundtrack, composed and scored by Hans Zimmer, was amazing and made a great movie even better. The music for this film, which unfortunately was also scored by Hans Zimmer, just makes a bad film worse. It’s hard to believe that Hans Zimmer would phone it in. So, who knows? Maybe it was my theater’s garbage sound system.
While this movie is visually impressive, it lacks the heart of the original. I lost count how many times I literally got chills while watching the original animated classic, but it was easy to count how many times I had them this time around. Zero. Even when Mufasa dies. Nothing. This version of The Lion King is just a passionless retelling of a Disney classic, and it just fails at every approach of trying to top, or even just match, the original in every way. Although they do a pretty good job of matching the Circle Of Life scene, but it wouldn’t have killed them to use maybe a few different camera angles. It’s not necessarily bad, and kids will probably love it, but why settle for a lesser version when there is something far more superior that already exists? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I give “The Lion King” a 6/10.