I should start by saying that this review was almost titled “I didn’t think I could love meerkats more,” but that title would not have done justice to the rest of the incredible experience that is Disney’s remake of The Lion King.
It’s no secret that I’ve NOT been a fan of the recent remakes of Disney classics… But the technology behind The Lion King had me fascinated from the very first sneak peek we saw of it. So did it work as a whole film? While some critics (who I love, adore, and strongly disagree with) weren’t fans, I loved it. And here’s why.
Nostalgia Done Right.
It’s not easy taking a movie that a whole generation grew up with and remaking it for a new generation. Disney has failed to hit the mark with a number of their remakes adding too much new material in or changing too much of what we loved. It was shocking to me as I sat in the theater watching this film -- just how much of the dialogue I still remembered word for word from the original. And while Zazu’s lines didn’t match up they should (my first issue), I didn’t find myself filled with anger as I did in Aladdin.
My main issues with this Lion King are all relatively minor. Changed dialogue, a new song in place of the score I loved, and Scar’s “Be Prepared” was almost cringe-worthy. However, that was basically all my issues. In fact, I think the film’s humor was actually better than the original’s. Pumbaa and Timon are sheer perfection in this. Their back-and-forth banter made me laugh so hard it hurt, and there’s a particular scene that references another Disney movie (no spoilers here) -- which will hands down be the favorite moment of the film for any true Disney fan.
The fantastic cast all gave strong vocal performances, and the effects that brought their characters to life is so good that it’s scary. The fact that this type of movie is possible and can look like this -- makes the film geek in me truly excited about what’s to come. Even if for some reason you’re not a Disney fan and have no interest in seeing this movie, you should if for nothing else than the incredible technology.
What Some Critics Are Complaining About
I hear and understand the complaints of some of my fellow critics (and sadly most critics (the film is currently at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I completely disagree with them. The argument is that the effects here looked too real and weren’t able to convey the emotional range that the original animated film did. And yes, the original film was able to show a broader range of emotions -- even being melodramatic at times -- because it was animated. Had this new version of The Lion King tried to do that, it would have looked ridiculous, and everyone would have hated it.
Due to this “limited” range of emotions, some critics found it hard to feel the emotion in certain key scenes, including Mufasa’s death. I had no problem crying in this scene, just as I always have with the original film. Not to mention… Anytime I hear James Earl Jones’ voice, I cry because… well, Mufasa’s death.
(Side note -- Thank God that Disney got James Earl Jones to voice Mufasa -- because that character couldn’t exist in the way that it should with anyone else voicing him.)
For me, the emotion in the film felt more real than the original, because it wasn’t as dramatic. It was real and relatable. Whereas, with the animated film, you enjoyed it and loved it -- but the characters didn’t feel real in the way that they do in this remake (note that I say “in the way that they do in this remake”). When Simba and Nala realize they’re falling in love during “Can You Feel The Love Tonight,” I felt that in their eyes. Which when I was watching the film, I immediately wanted to commend the animators for being able to capture that in a way that I could actually feel it.
Also Worth Mentioning
I saw this film in Dolby, and I literally felt the stampede. Between the movement of the animals and the incredible music, this is one of the few films that I would recommend paying extra to see with this technology. The sound is worth it.
The Lion King Review: Overall
Overall, this film paid tribute beautifully to the original movie while wowing me with new technology. And while I had a few issues with the film, they were so minor that they didn’t affect my overall review. I’m glad that Disney finally got one of these remakes right -- at least in my opinion.
Now I’m off to try to find where I can still watch Meerkat Manor… Thanks, Billy Eichner.
The Lion King Review