“The Lion King” is a revitalization of the classic film by Disney and it has all the wonder and majesty presented by the original.
The film, directed by Jon Favreau, follows the famous lion Simba on his journey through life with all its joys and tragedies. “Lion King” features an ensemble cast, including David Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, Simba’s childhood friend and love interest, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Simba’s villainous uncle who plots to take the throne by force, John Oliver as Zazu, the royal vizier to the lions, and James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa from the original film.
There is much criticism abuzz about the use of CGI in this film but there are only a few instances where the so-called “soulless CGI” is a problem. That disclaimer aside, the film is beautiful. It presents an idealized look at the African savannah that is entirely unrealistic in terms of the process of nature. Lions and gazelles don’t gallivant around together, exchanging upscale ideas on the politics of elephants and giraffes, but for a couple hours, in the world of the Lion King, they do. On top of that beauty presented both literally and metaphorically, the opening sequence remade from the original nearly shot for shot is breathtaking. The confluence of the animals to behold the birth of Mufasa’s son is almost Biblical in its grandeur and that’s purely from the fact the CGI animals are so realistic.
In terms of the plot, the remake changes absolutely nothing. In fact, the whole movie is pretty much a reskin more than a remake. It makes the film more palatable so to speak to a modern audience with which traditional animation has kind of fallen by the wayside. Long gone are the days of the so-called Disney Renaissance where the production company was able to breathe new life into what many considered a dead artform at the time. However, the permanence of these stories could not stave off the onset of the computer-generated age. Disney has made a trend of remaking their traditionally animated movies with live action or CGI features after the success of “The Jungle Book” in 2016, also directed by Jon Favreau.
Now, there comes the ball drop. The film, while beautiful, does have its moments where the CGI becomes a little unnerving. The charm of traditional animation doesn’t really make it to the big screen here for a couple of reasons. Favreau had previously stated that he wanted hyper-realistic animals in this film compared to some of the more stylized animation featured in “The Jungle Book.” This means you have cats that cannot smile and birds that certainly cannot emote at all other than the twitch of a head or a flap of the wings. This charm also generally does not play well to audiences watching realistic animals because it creates the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley unnerves people and makes them actually uncomfortable at a warthog singing a song about living carefree.
Ultimately, “The Lion King” is a worthy remake. It holds up to the test and gives some credence to remakes that try to inject new life into old classics. “The Lion King” receives an A-minus rating.