About a week ago, I watched the remake of The Lion King. Full disclosure: I am not one of those people who is obsessed with Disney movies and has seen each one over 100 times. The last time I saw the original Lion King was well over ten years ago, and I barely remembered it, aside from the main plot points (for example, I completely forgot that the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was in the movie…oops!). Despite my lack of enthusiasm compared to hardcore Disney fans, I was still excited for the film. The visuals looked spectacular, and I enjoyed the live action remakes for The Jungle Book and Beauty & the Beast, so I was optimistic.
After having seen the movie, I can say that it was enjoyable, and even good, but it was missing…something, although I can’t put my finger on exactly what that something is. I think it was several things put together, so to help me explain it, I am going to list what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. Warning: spoilers ahead!
What I Liked About The Lion King
- The visuals, obviously! The CGI in this film was absolutely spectacular. It is probably the best CGI I have ever seen. Characters such as Mufasa, adult Simba, Scar, and Pumbaa looked so real it was unbelievable. Don’t even get me started on the landscape – if someone told me that they shot the entire movie on location in Africa and added the animals in post, I would have believed them.
- I know a lot of people have complained about the fact that the animals can’t emote like their animated counterparts, but there were a few that I felt emoted very strongly. You could always tell exactly what Pumbaa was thinking and feeling, despite him being an ultra-realistic looking warthog. Scar’s expressions were also brilliant, and he looked far more menacing than his animated counterpart, which made him a better villain in my opinion. I was also very impressed with Sarabi’s facial expressions – they were probably the best of all the animals, as they conveyed shock and heartbreak brilliantly.
- There were some excellent performances. Pumbaa was perfectly cast, and Timon was also great (I had high expectations for him because he is my favourite character, but Billy Eichner did a wonderful job). I was also very impressed with Scar – I had read online that people weren’t happy with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance, but I thought it was perfect. His voice was very intimidating and villainous, and made Scar a much more interesting antagonist. Scar’s scenes were probably my favourite part of the movie because I was so impressed with his characterization.
- Timon and Pumbaa’s scenes were terrific, and were the most fun part of the movie. Their dynamic was great and real, and although Seth Rogen’s singing voice isn’t the best, Billy Eichner has one of the best voices in the movie, and together they make the musical numbers vastly entertaining. Also, Timon’s use of “Be Our Guest”to tempt the hyenas was absolutely hilarious.
- This movie gets bonus points for depicting my two favourite animals (meerkats and lions, respectively).
What I Didn’t Like About The Lion King
- It felt a little … rushed. It didn’t feel like one cohesive movie, and instead felt like a bunch of different clips thrown together. I felt like the story needed more time to breathe instead of rushing to the next event, but from what I’ve heard the original was quite rushed as well, in which case this complaint is more about the story in general.
- Sorry Beyoncé fans, but the singer’s performance was my least favourite thing about this remake. Her voice is not suited for voice acting at all – it was so quiet that I could hardly hear her at times, and she barely expressed any emotion, even in scenes where it was required. It felt like she was simply reading her lines and not putting any effort into voice acting. Her performance really pulled me out of the film, as it felt and sounded like a person reading lines as opposed to a character speaking. I truly feel that if they had cast someone else I would have enjoyed this film much more.
- I love Donald Glover as an actor (hey, fellow Community fans!), but I just didn’t feel that his voice really suited Simba. Don’t get me wrong, he did not have Beyoncé’s problem of not putting any emotion into his lines – in fact, his performance was great. I just don’t think his voice matched his character. When I see a large, majestic lion, I imagine a deep, powerful voice and presence, such as that of James Earl Jones. Donald’s voice just doesn’t scream powerful, majestic animal to me.
- I wasn’t super happy with Mufasa’s death scene or his speech to Simba in the clouds. His death is a heartbreaking moment, and to be honest I was tearing up just thinking about it, but when it actually happened, it didn’t hit me as hard as I expected it to (I did cry, but not that much). Simba’s reaction to his father’s death just didn’t do it for me, especially because he is only sad for about ten seconds and doesn’t even cry. I was dreading this scene, but it honestly wasn’t even that bad. Mufasa’s speech to adult Simba was also lacking, mostly because we never see his face like we do in the animated version. This really took away from the emotional impact, and made it feel hollow.
- This movie didn’t feel as fun as the original, perhaps because it was so realistic. This is kind of a vague complaint but it just felt far more serious, and seemed to lack some of the Disney magic that made it a classic in the first place.
Overall, I would probably give this movie about a 6.5/10. Certain aspects of it were very impressive, but it was really brought down by the miscasting of the two leads, the lack of feeling in two crucial scenes, and the more serious approach. I would watch it again, but I feel that most Disney fans will probably prefer the original (which I need to rewatch).
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