The wait is over and, finally, we were able to watch the most anticipated film of the year, The Lion King. As one of Disney’s most ambitious projects of the last few years, our hopes were raised too high. In some aspects, it does exceed expectations; in others, not so much. So, is it good? Is it bad? Is it worth your time? Let’s answer those questions one at a time.
Directed by Jon Favreau, -known for his work in The Jungle Book, Iron Man, and his brief appearance in Friends as Monica’s millionaire boyfriend- the movie is an almost frame-by-frame remake of the Disney animated classic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At a time when people feel utterly and stupidly offended when their classics (Exhibit A: The Little Mermaid) are touched, we must say the new Lion King is a safe move that will surely reach its monetary goals. But then again, that doesn’t mean it’s great.
The Lion King is one of my all-time favorite films, and I must say the remake does fulfill some important requirements: it kept the amazing songs, and it has a great cast and incredible visuals (at some points, but we’ll get there). Being a story we all know by heart, it’s impossible not to cry our hearts out at Mufasa’s death or laugh hysterically with Timon and Pumba’s jokes. However, there’s something this movie lacks: heart.
As we could all tell from the trailers, the visuals are out of this world. The detail with which each frame was made is impressive, but somehow, it seems the whole team was so worried about making each character, each plant, and each detail look so perfect and so realistic, that they forgot a crucial thing: the fact that these are speaking animals in a fantasy movie. By this I mean, they forgot to give the characters facial expressions, so they end up looking just like animatronics, very real ones, but animatronics still.
For me, that’s the biggest flaw of the film and one that can bring the whole movie down. Yes, I cried horribly with Mufasa’s death because I’m a millennial woman who can’t move on from that tragedy, but this expressionless little Simba didn’t do the job as the cartoon character did (not to mention this Simba, in particular, is really annoying). The hyenas, who were an amazing villainous comic relief only have a couple of good jokes. Scar is missing his amazing and also terrifying sass that ends up making Mufasa and Simba a couple of dumb characters who fall for someone who’s literally telling them he’s evil. And I could go on and on for hours… The point is, there’s a lack of character development that we, as the audience, end up compensating for with our memories from the original.
There are some minor details that annoyed me as a lifelong fan. For instance, why would they make the love scene during the daytime! It doesn’t make any sense, it was like “can you feel the love… at 3 p.m.?” Or the fact that important moments like Mufasa’s death lasted only a couple of minutes, but a sequence showing Simba’s hair traveling through the savannah while literally showing us the magical process of a giraffe’s digestion takes forever.
We can’t leave before discussing the cast. James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa: love it! Donald Glover as Simba: awesome. John Oliver as Zazú: really funny. Beyoncé as Nala: surprisingly, kind of meh, to be honest (her character lacked some emotion, if you ask me; great songs, though). However, the Seth Rogen/ Billy Eichner combo is so great, that we can say the entire movie is held by their hilarious chemistry.
All in all, I can say that though the movie isn’t dreadful and you’ll end up enjoying it out of nostalgia and the great CGI work, by the end, you’ll feel there’s something missing and that is the heart the original had and that touches us on a very deep level.
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