Another chapter has been entered into Disney’s newest body of work in live action remakes. The Lion King, 25 years after the original animated release, has been given a facelift. I guess the use of the term “Live Action” is a bit of a stretch for this one because of the amount of CGI used, but I’m going to go ahead and call it that, because while watching it you don’t seem to realize you are watching CGI. It felt real! It amazes me how far technology has come in the past 25 years. Disney brought the Pride Land to life!
I must admit, it has been far too long since I’ve watched the 1994 animated Lion King. I really wish I had taken the time to watch it prior to seeing the new 2019 version. I like to go back and see how much “shot for shot” they do and to make sure I recognize any new bodies of music and scenes that are different from the original version. I did’t have the chance to do that this time. I am planning on going back one day this week and watching the animated version, which might warrant another trip to the theater as well and watch the new one again.
One of the great things that I’ve experienced while watching this movies is being able to introduce my daughter to them. We own most of the DVDs or digital copies of the movies, but there is something exciting about going to the movies and watching them on the big screen. I can remember as a child how excited I would be to go to the movies. My parents were TV/Movie addicts and I have no doubt that is where I got it from. My father was probably one of the first people in our town to own a VHS player. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. So being able to experience this with my family is a pleasure.
As for the movie, it is really on par with the other Disney Live Action remakes. I’m not going to do a full review of the movie, hopefully you’ve seen the animated version. You could seriously write a book about the depth of The Lion King. There are so many wonderful lessons to be taught from the story. There are tons of symbolism. That part is the same with the live action as was in the animated. So, instead of rehashing the same story, I’ll try and focus what’s new. As I stated, it has been awhile since I’ve seen the animated version, so if I misspeak, please overlook me and I may go back and try to correct it after I rewatch the 1994 version.
As for the actors, they were top notch! The same with the original, Timon and Pumbaa steal the show. Seth Rogen was perfect as Pumbaa and he and Billy Eichner played well off each other. John Oliver was a wonderful addition to the cast as Zazu. His twist on the character was refreshing and to me seemed to give it more depth than was in the original. I’m not taking anything away from Rowen Atkinson, he was good as well. Donald Glover and Beyoncé did a fine job as Simba and Nala. The one that I was the most interested to see was Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. Jeremy Irons has such a distinct voice and vocal cadence I was a bit apprehensive to hear another actor take on the role of Scar. As I said in my review of Aladdin, my biggest let down was the voice of the bad guy. Chiwetel however, was AMAZING! When you combine his voice and the CGI for Scar, I was blown away. He was evil embodied. A true villain on the big screen. You really can’t talk about the voice actors without tipping your hat to the great James Earl Jones. I am convinced no one and I mean no one could be Mufasa better than him. When he is no longer with us, the absence of his voice will leave a void that I’m not sure can ever be filled.
There are a few new scenes and a wonderful reference to Beauty and the Beast that I didn’t remember from the animated version. But going to see this version and expecting a ton of new stuff is not the reason to see the movie, because it’s not there. One of the best reasons to watch this new version is the live action aspect. From the very first shot of baby Simba, I heard my daughter say out loud, “He’s so cuuuuuute!”. I could see her cringe back and recoil a bit as the hyenas sauntered upon the pride as Scar declared himself King. I could see the joy on her face as Simba and Nala pranced and played in the beautiful setting of Simba’s new home. These are things you just don’t get from classic animation. Overall, we all enjoyed the movie. It has action, sadness, joy, fear, and laughter. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good fart joke, might be in the wrong movie though. I could hear my father-in-law full blown heehaw laughing at the gaseous nature of Pumbaa. If you were a fan of the original, this remake is a must see. I’ve heard many people complain about all the remakes and how Hollywood doesn’t have any new ideas. If you feel this way, I believe you are missing the point. Back when many of these animated films were made, that was the only medium that could have given them justice. Now, with the technology we have, they can bring some of your fondest memories to life. Don’t short yourself the opportunity to see the Lion King come to life.