In a year full of unoriginal & nostalgic filled films, this is probably the most anticipated of the "My Childhood!" films so far this year. I'm a huge fan of the original The Lion King (even though I like Aladdin more) so I had hope that this would be an interesting take on the classic story kinda like how 2016's The Jungle Book was. While it does look gorgeous and still has some of the fun from the original, the new The Lion King is still unnecessary and even diminishes some of the soul and charm from the original 2D animated classic with this more realistic 3D animated retelling.
Considering Jon Favreau directed The Jungle Book (2016) with such expertise and finesse, I assumed he would be able to do the same with The Lion King. Problem is, The Jungle Book had a human character that he could actually direct and get emotion from. Here, he's only directing actors via voice-overs, and while the voice acting is great, the CGI animals just don't perform as well as this material needs them to. The emotion you felt from that one scene with Scar, Mufasa, and Simba are almost completely gone because of the soulless expressions that the animals portrayed. The more realistic look of the animals and animations made even the musical numbers extremely bland and devoid of joy. It's a shame because the special effects are revolutionary and the voice acting is terrific but the overall vibe is not there.
This was the same as the original film but with extended versions of scenes that were perfectly fine to begin with, but Disney felt the need for them to be around 3 times their original length. Remember the part where Rafiki finds Simba's hair in the original? Remember that scene being about a minute long and beautiful? Well, this time it's around 3 to 4 minutes long and doesn't have the same emotional impact (mainly because Rafiki's personality is majorly downplayed for some reason). I actually feel the need to apologize to the Aladdin adaptation earlier this year that I gave the same critique to because at least that movie added some new and enjoyable scenes that actually added to the story in some way. There are some new scenes here, but they're completely unnecessary. Luckily, the more comedic elements of the original The Lion King are completely intact and that's because Timon and Pumbaa are still hilarious together. I’m happy to see they got those two completely right.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Like I said above, the voice acting is terrific from everyone involved. From big to small roles, it's all top-notch from a stellar cast. But as I said above, the CGI animals (besides Pumbaa and Timon) just don't portray enough emotion to sell almost any of the classic scenes we all love and know by heart. It's not really fair to criticize acting from a bunch of special effects, but when it's the only form of acting you have besides vocal then I have to talk about it. Timon and Pumbaa are both goofy-looking animals so they can get away with them doing goofy and over-exaggerated expressions, which helps, but the rest of the animals just don't and the film ends up feeling a bit too soulless.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Like Aladdin, all of the classic songs you know and love are back in this version with a little twist here and there, and the addition of a couple of new songs. The new songs included are Elton John's terrifically upbeat and catchy song "Never Too Late" and Beyoncé's emotionally powerful "Spirit." While these songs are great, they're very underused in the actual film. Never Too Late doesn't happen until the credits, and Spirit is used as a song for a montage which makes me think the filmmakers were either being lazy with the structure of the film or they were too afraid to add anything new in fear of upsetting fans that just wanted to see the same thing they saw over 20 years ago. But seriously, they couldn't figure out a good place for these two great new additions so they decided to just toss them in there wherever they could fit. A real shame. All of the original songs are sung very well by the cast members, and both Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner, while not singers, add a bit of humor and levity to songs like "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "Hakuna Matata." Overall, the songs & score are still great, but some are underused and most are the same with not enough changes.
One thing that everyone can agree on is that this movie is absolutely breathtaking, and if seen, needs to be watched in IMAX for maximum clarity. The scenery is gorgeous with lush jungles, expansive plains, and huge mountains rendered in the most realistic and detailed ways possible. The animals all look, move, and sound exactly like the actual animals they are based on which is very impressive. The filmmakers certainly did their research into making you believe that this world and creatures are real. There are a couple of spotty special effects here and there but nothing that really detracts from the overall experience
I obviously enjoyed my time with this new The Lion King adaptation. If I didn't, then this would've been a much more scathing review. The visuals are terrific, the songs are on point, the vocal talent is superb, and there are some really funny moments, but there's just not enough to warrant its existence. It feels like it's here just to prove that Disney can dig up anything from your childhood, dust it off, make it look nicer, and sell it back to you as if it was new. I honestly would've enjoyed this movie if it was 3D animated in a more traditional Disney and Pixar way and not like this. It's absolutely beautiful but devoid of what made the original 2D animated film so great...a soul.