Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Jeff Nathanson, Brenda Chapman
Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogan, James Earl Jones and more.
Run Time: 1 Hour 58 Minutes
Release Date: July 19th, 2019
Link to IMDb
Of all the classic animated Disney movies, ‘The Lion King‘ is probably the one I care the least about. It’s fantastic, don’t get me wrong. But if I’m going to sit down and watch a good children’s movie, it is far from likely that I’d pick that one first.
So, when I went to see the new ‘live-action’ version (hey Disney, you realize that it’s still animated, right?), my expectations weren’t all that high. I was curious to see how they’d uphold the old film’s legacy and present new ideas. I didn’t expect anything great, but I hoped for something new.
Dear god, I was thoroughly disappointed.
If you’ve seen the original film, you’ve seen this one. Except better in almost every single way. This new version is a heartless cash grab, designed for the sole purpose of getting money rather than carrying out an artistic vision. Do not, for any reason, watch this movie.
Let me break down every reason why.
Plot: You’ve Seen the First One
Have you seen the original? Or head Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet‘? Then congratulations! You’ve seen this movie.
This movie is, almost shot-for-shot, a complete remake of the original. Everything, from the characters to the dialogue, is ripped almost straight out of the original with only a few alterations. So, if you’re expecting a decent story with good dialogue, you are still going to get it.
Only, you know, without the other things that made ‘The Lion King’ good in the first place. Such as…
Presentation: Beauty Without Soul
Now, I want to give credit where it’s due. This movie is absolutely gorgeous! The characters and the environment they inhabit look completely real! I could totally see kids being convinced that this is real.
Aside from their lip flaps. Those look pretty fucking awful.
The sad thing is: that animation doesn’t matter whatsoever! Putting ‘The Lion King‘ into live-action does nothing but hurt the film, as the original was so dependant on its expressive animation! It’s clear that a ton of work, talent
You could take one look at any frame from the original film and know what’s going on. Even if you haven’t seen the film before, you could immediately pick up on the story just by watching the character’s facial expressions and movements. This is the main feature that made the original version work so well in the first place!
John Lasseter of Pixar fame, when discussing the advice given to him by his mentor Chuck Jones, says it best.
Great animation, you should be able to turn the sound off and still tell what is going on.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at these stills from the original.
The amount of character and emotion communicated through these stills alone is a testament to the effort and talent that went into creating the original. Every single frame is a painting. They each work together to visually tell the story. The writing and dialogue is fantastic, but it is unneeded thanks to the stunning presentation.
Now look at these stills from the live-action version.
Tell me honestly: what do you get from those stills?
Photo-realistic animals aren’t capable of the same level of expression used in the original animation. All of the talent and effort put into the original go completely to waste! There is no expression and personality in the new live-action version! It is completely hollow.
“But what does visual storytelling matter?” I can hear you asking. “The dialogue is plenty communicative!” Well, let me ask you something:
Did you ever watch ‘Up‘? If so, then tell me: would the opening be so emotionally resonant if it was communicated via dialogue?
Live action as a medium has plenty of merits to it. However, it all depends on the property. For example, the upcoming ‘Mulan‘ remake could lend itself well to a live-action version, as the story and characters are plenty realistic. But ‘The Lion King‘ simply does not work in this style.
This movie is gorgeous. One of the most visually stunning I’ve ever seen. But those visuals are empty husks with no personality. It is horribly depressing to know that all that effort went totally to waste.
Performances: Good, But Still Worse
There really isn’t much to say here.
The cast of the new film is decent. Everyone does a perfectly fine job with their roles. But none of them come even remotely close to the same quality as in the original. The only exception is James Earl Jones as Mufasa.
Y’know. The only member of the cast they brought back from the original.
To me, a movie’s quality doesn’t matter so long as it has heart. This is why I love movies like ‘The Room‘ and ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror‘. They are incredibly awful, but they have clear heart put into them.
‘The Lion King‘ 2019 edition has little to no heart to it. It is the most gorgeous cash grab of all time. It isn’t a lovingly crafted recreation of a classic animated film. It is a tech demo. One that sets the stage for more in the future.
No part of me can recommend this movie. If you want to watch ‘The Lion King‘, then just go watch the original. If you want a story about familial betrayal, go read ‘Hamlet‘. If you just want to see something gorgeous, go take a hike! Do not watch this movie! It doesn’t deserve to…