The Lion King is a technical marvel unlike anything you’ve seen but is more or less a shot for shot remake of the original animated movie.
Summary: After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery.
Director: Jon Favreau
A remake of a beloved movie is always tough because it almost always invites you to compare one to the other. With Disney and their remakes, they want you to do this, since half of their audience is the nostalgia crowd and the other half are younger audience members discovering the movies for the first time. If there is one major weakness in this version of The Lion King it’s that it is almost too close to the previous version. This is more or less a shot for shot remake of the 1994 original. Thus it becomes hard to mark this one as distinct from the previous movie aside from the visuals.
The visuals, however, are a gamechanger. The fact that this movie is entirely digital with no motion capture and no shots of the real world in this movie is truly amazing. These animals look real and there is no getting around the fact that this will change how we create digital animals going forward. That being said, the realism does work against the movie as well. A lion doesn’t emote in the same way that humans do, and the story of The Lion King is highly emotional, so the mismatch is a little jarring. While it isn’t the uncanny valley, it is a little sad to hear the voice cast giving it their all while the emotion just isn’t translating in the characters on the screen. Beauty and the Beast ran into a similar problem while trying to show the emotions of the Beast.
The decision to cast performers who can both sing and voice act was a smart one. There was always this dissonance in old Disney movies when characters would switch between the actor singing and the actor speaking. This is a star-studded cast and they all do a great job with Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogen a Pumbaa easily being the standouts. It’s lovely to hear the voice of James Earl Jones as Mufasa and Chiwetel Ejiofor brings a lovely level of menace to Scar even if “Be Prepared” is dialed significantly down in this movie.
The Lion King will likely bring in some new fans but the production missed a great opportunity to change something up. The original movie is great so this one is great as well though in slightly different ways. The breakthrough with the technology is amazing and we’ll have to see what they do with it next.
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