The Lion King (2019) Spoiler Review
By Megan Williams
It may seem weird that ‘spoilers’ and ‘The Lion King’ are in the same sentence, especially since the original Disney classic is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but there’s a good reason for this. While the 2019 live-action/CGI adaptation is a shot-for-shot remake, ‘The Lion King’ has added in a new scene, as well as some new dialogue to make it fresh for fans of the 1994 original.
Therefore, I will be talking about the changes to ‘The Lion King’, as well as reviewing it.
Overall, ‘The Lion King’ is watchable, but definitely has its issues. Interestingly, its biggest problem comes from its breath-taking visuals. The visuals are incredible, and look like it has come out of a nature documentary. It’s mind-boggling to think how long the animation team worked on this film. However, Disney have exchanged charm and expressive characters for the amazing visuals.
Most of the characters’ faces never show any emotion when it calls for it, making them lifeless. An example of this is during the stampede scene, when Simba sees the Wildebeest stampede run towards him. He should look terrified but, instead, he looks blank because the visual effects don’t allow him to react appropriately. This is an ongoing issue that applies to all but two characters, and even the settings. A location like Africa should be colourful and vibrant, but this looks as dead as the Elephant Graveyard. A glaring example is the ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ sequence.
What was the most colourful part of the film is now a 3-minute scene filled with beige colours, saturated landscapes and nothing visually interesting happening. Yes, this new adaptation is photorealistic, but the film is fictional so exaggerated colours and locations are allowed to be included. The pacing is also extremely rushed, and events that should take its time are gone as quickly as they appeared, and leave no impact at all. Every shot in the original ‘Lion King’ had a reason to exist and were important, and the film took its time to tell a powerful story. This remake does not follow this at all; most of the shots, mainly wide shots, served no purpose meaning that a lot of the film’s shots left no emotional impact whatsoever.
The only character who remembers how to emote is Scar, who is the most expressive and animated character in the entirety of the film’s 118 minute running time. I’m almost convinced Scar was the first character to be animated, and then the crew forgot to give the rest of the characters the same treatment. He was the stand-out and I loved how he was portrayed. Instead of copying Jeremy Irons’ fantastic and creepy performance, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love Actually, The Martian) gives Scar a, what seems like, caring and kind-hearted manner that would easily fool anyone (unless they knew what he was really like!).
The other stand-out is Shenzi the hyena. Originally voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, Shenzi was meant to be the leader of the hyena pack. While that wasn’t made clear in the original film, it’s definitely clear here and she plays a bigger role in this adaptation. Florence Kasumba voices Shenzi and does a fantastic job at making her a strong leader, and a threatening enemy. ‘The Lion King’ also gives the hyenas a backstory, telling us that a war has raged on between the Lions and Hyenas. This new backstory not only tells us why they are living in the Elephant Graveyard, but it also makes Scar’s reign with the Lions and Hyenas even more terrifying and dangerous than before.
Unfortunately, the voice acting goes downhill from here and effort goes out the window, all for a paycheque. Even James. L. Jones, who reprises his role as King Mufasa, sounds bored and uninterested, as if he didn’t want to revisit the film but was contracted to. Its extremely upsetting to hear.
The rest, sadly, aren’t any better: John Oliver, who voices Zazu, and Beyoncè, who voices the adult Nala, should’ve been perfect for the roles, but they are just as lifeless as their CGI counterparts. Even Timon and Pumbaa (voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen), one of the highlights of the original film, are dull and embarrassing to watch. Although Timon’s attempt at covering ‘Be Our Guest’ from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ got the biggest laugh from me. Even Scar’s song ‘Be Prepared’ was flimsy, and its evident that Disney never wanted to include it in the film, but caved due to fan outcry.
1994’s ‘The Lion King’ is Disney’s 4th biggest grossing film (excluding the Star Wars and Marvel properties), so it’s no surprise that Disney wanted to try and replicate that success. However, this should’ve been left alone. The phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies here, and Disney clearly ignored that advice in creating this emotionless and colourless adaptation.
To fans of ‘The Lion King’, I say this: stick to the (superior) 1994 original. This remake has breath-taking visuals and an incredible soundtrack, provided by Hans Zimmer once again. However, this isn’t enough to save it, as the film’s biggest downfall comes from its visuals and the music score doesn’t differentiate from its source material.
Disney is in the midst of remaking a lot of their classics, but this is one that should’ve been left alone.
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