Had The Lion King come out during a summer that was devoid of remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings it could have made more of an impact. Alas we live in a world where this is not the first animated Disney classic being remade, hell it’s not even the only one sharing screens at the theater. The timing, coupled with the unfortunate duty of trying to live up to arguably the best Disney classic of all time makes this rehash a bit disappointing.
Now I am not jumping onto the already large pile of negativity surrounding this, because although it is not perfect, there is still good to be found. Jon Favreau has made a visual masterpiece. The jaw dropping visual effects are an absolutely stunning achievement, there are times when one would possibly think they were watching a nature documentary. The familiar Hans Zimmer score over these landscapes and characters gets emotional at times and a few of the voice actors really bring their “A” game here. James Earl Jones will always be great, and Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner really stand out, the chemistry between the two is a bright spot, who knew Eichner could sing! When it comes to the songs, Beyonce and Donald Glover really do shine, bringing a great new take to our beloved Elton John ballad.
It is in the films greatest strength though, that the weakness is found. What draws you into the 1994 movie is the animation style, the human type emotions that are able to be conveyed through the cartoon animals. The animation here is life like, it is so hard to read and emote human emotions on these very real animals and because of that some of the emotional impact is just lost. What good is being able to see every single hair and hoof, if we don’t have an emotional connection? The films villains are what suffer the most from this emotional disconnect, while Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has the look of evil, he has lost all that Shakespearian devilry that made the original so much fun to watch. The hyenas attempt at levity is clumsy and often times feels rushed. There are frightening moments with them, the realism no doubt bringing this up to a PG rating.
While it may seem like I am down on this film, I really do feel like the good outweighs the bad. Yes, it does not live up to the epic heights that our childhood film soared, but I do not think it is right or fair to assume this will measure up to our childhood nostalgia, nothing will surpass that. So expecting it to beat that is just an unrealistic expectation. This does not bring shame on its predecessor, it is a great tribute for this generation to enjoy. If you don’t like it, plug in your VCR.