Movies for Breakfast THE LION KING Review
From the studio that brought you The Lion King, comes a watered down version of the same film.
After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery.
Once again from Disney comes another live action adaptation from their back catalog of popular animated movies, this time in the form of The Lion King. Originally released ion 1992, The Lion King was a major success for Disney and is still today considered one of their best animated movies by most. With Jon Favreau helming the directors chair for this live action remake it had a lot on its plate to start, but with a top tier voice cast behind it there was little worry for Disney when it came to this movie making money. The more important question though, is whether the film is worth seeing or if it is better to just go back and watch the animated movie again? Well, as expected, it cannot hold up when compared to the original.
To start off with the positives, the film looks absolutely beautiful. The animals, the environments, and everything in between is perfect. Even though the animals are full cg and talking, it doesn’t have the same awkward looking human faces that were given to the animals in the recent Andy Serkis directed Jungle Book movie. Instead we are given full anatomically correct animals that move, act, and react to the world as if they belong there. On top of that the voice cast for this movie does an amazing job of capturing these characters and portraying them. Looking at the voice cast this was never going to be a surprise, but there is one surprise in young JD McCrary who plays the young Simba before Donald Glover takes over as the adult Simba later in the film. JD McCrary only has two acting credits in movies, with a couple television credits, but his voice acting in this movie was that of a seasoned professional. I was surprised to find out this was his first voice role in a film, and to do so well in a movie packed with the voice talents of Beyoncé, James Earl Jones, and Donald Glover is a major feat in of itself.
That said there are two characters that stick out the most in this film with Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner) and then Pumba (voiced by Seth Rogan). The duo stands out the most from the film as the most fun and cartoonish from the original movie. While most characters are dialed back in their cartoonish nature, these two are kept the same except following the laws of physics for what they are capable of doing as realistic animals. Though they are tamed down a bit, it isn’t to the same degree that other characters such as Rafiki, Zazu, and even Scar are. The casting is perfect, the writing for their scenes are the most fun and entertaining, and as a result the most memorable. Which these two are some of the most iconic characters from the original film and they stand in that same position for this adaptation. That said it does show the contrast for the rest of the film and the biggest downside to the film being live action.
With live action the film loses a lot of the character traits that made the original animated movie so fun. Scar does not come off nearly as menacing as he does in the animated film. In the animated movie Scar looks evil, he feels evil, the way he walks, talks, and the menacing way he manipulates everyone around him makes him a great villain. In this film he loses the menacing walk, he evil look is gone, and he looks like a regular lion. As a result even his menacing voice and way of speaking comes off as very toned down. Even the hyena’s don’t have the same appeal as they did before. The three main hyena’s are barely recognizable beyond the others, and it is hard to tell any of them apart since they lose their distinct physical traits that made them easy to tell from the rest of the group with ease. Even the smaller roles like Zazu and Rafiki don’t feel right in this film with their personalities and movements toned down a lot due to the new physical limitations the movie puts on itself. With it a lot of the film begins to feel slow and while the attention to detail in the cg is amazing, it just plays out as a less fun copy of the original.
Which is the most glaring issue with the film, and the one that holds it back the most. Because of these limitations the film put onto itself the fun of the original, the spectacle, and the characters all take major hits. While characters like Timon and Pumba survive, everyone else suffers as a result. Even the emotions of the animals is hard to tell, since they lose the expressive faces they could have in the original the only way to tell how a character is feeling is by the voice actor. The pinnacle scene in the beginning of the film where Simba feels he has done the worst thing possible, the only way you can tell that he is sad is because the voice actor is crying. If you replace the sound of that one scene with another, there is no way to know that it is out of place. Or even putting the voice actor crying in another scene, it would have the same impact and emotion of knowing that the character is sad because the voice actor is sad.
I grew up having watched the original animated The Lion King movie, so when this live action adaptation was announced I was very excited for it. What I ended up getting though, was not the same movie at all. While the film looks beautiful, and I want more of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan as Timon and Pumba, the rest of the film and its aspects really hold this one back. Out of all the films released by Disney in the live action adaption lineup, this one by far is the most disappointing so far. The film doesn’t try and be something different, it tries to copy the original note for note, but misses the parts that made the original so great. The plot of The Lion King by itself is just the story of Hamlet with animals, what made The Lion King the masterpiece it was before, was the characters, color, and imaginative fun. With that gone we just have a strange retelling of Hamlet with animals. I am sure there are some people who will enjoy this film, and some who will think it is better than the original, but I am not one of those people. For families looking to see this one, I suggest playing the original animated film for your kids instead and they will get a lot more out of it.