The Lion King Review


Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones

I wish sometimes I could be a fly on the wall during the pitch meetings at Disney HQ. It would be so interesting to see what goes on behind those closed doors and hear what’s said. I really do wonder sometimes if they just have dollar signs up everywhere.

“What shall we make next?” one studio executive asks. “What will make the most money?” another adds with a steely look in his eyes. “Hmm, which Disney classics haven’t we remade yet?” asks a third executive.

A fourth Hollywood studio man starts listing the ones they’ve already remade: “So, we’ve done Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast and The Jungle Book. We’ve got Tim doing Dumbo, and Guy’s doing Aladdin.”

A fifth steps in and says: “That leaves The Little Mermaid, Lady And The Tramp, Mulan, The Sword In The Stone, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and… I’m forgetting one.” [Just as an aside, they are remaking all of these films]

The very first executive, who’s been on his laptop the whole time since starting this riveting conversation about which classic they can squeeze next for more cash, looks up and exclaims: “The Lion King! Guys, I’m on Wikipedia right now, and we’ve forgotten our most beloved classic. The bloody Lion King!”

Mufasa in The Lion King remake

Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King remake

Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But a king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king. Remember.

“Yes! Excellent. That’s it. The Lion King will be the one. But who should we get to direct it? Who could do this incredible film of ours justice?” ponders the guy who’s obviously the most senior in the room.

“How about Jon. He did a pretty good job with The Jungle Book, and he’s good a making very realistic animals,” offers another.

“That’s a great idea, but how can we get realistic looking animals to emote?” asks one intern timidly.

“Who cares. Just think of the money. And, yeah, you’re fired,” says the senior-looking studio executive.

A Shameless Cash-Grab

Simba as a cub in Disney’s The Lion King remake

Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.

At least, that’s how I imagine it would have gone down in the room. After having seen the film, it’s evident that this is a shameless cash-grab, and as far as that mission is concerned, The Lion King remake has been a huge success.

People are going to the cinemas in their droves to watch this new CGI-version of The Lion King. But, after having seen it, I can’t help but think this is just Hollywood at its worst.

I do like Jon Favreau as a director, and I think his take on The Jungle Book was interesting. But his The Lion King is basically a shot for shot remake of the original Disney cartoon, just with animals that don’t emote.

One thing that people didn’t seem to think about when making the movie – apart from the young intern in my little scenario at the beginning of this ‘review’ – is that animals don’t actually emote in real-life.

Real-life Animals Don’t Emote

Simba and Scar in Disney’s remake of The Lion King

Life’s not fair, is it, my little friend? While some are born to feast, others spend their lives in the dark, begging for scraps.

The whole reason why the animated picture worked so well was that you could actually see the emotions the lead characters were feeling. You could tell how scared and upset Simba was when his father, Mufasa, was killed. But here, there’s nothing. It feels totally empty because you can’t see the characters’ emotions. They’re animals, and they look too real.

I think this film is more of a testament to what the technology can achieve nowadays. It feels more like a tech demo-reel as opposed to an actual movie. I could easily see this on National Geographic’s TV channel.

Then there’s the abysmal voice-acting. When the original Lion King was made, they relied mostly on actual voice-actors. Yet here, they opted to cast the likes of Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen and John Oliver, who aren’t seasoned voice-actors, and it shows.

I hate to say that Beyoncé is particularly bad here, and Glover is a bit lifeless. That said, John Oliver was surprisingly good, as was Chiwetel Ejiofor. However, the standouts are Rogen and Billy Eichner as Timone and Pumba. They’re brilliant, and their scenes are the ones which were changed ever so slightly from the original film.

Lacking The Visual Flair Of The Original

Zazu and Simba in Disney’s remake of The Lion King

You must take your place in the circle of life.

I was also very puzzled by the Can You Feel The Love Tonight scene taking place in the day. I’m sure this had something to do with the fact that it would have been too complicated to set it at night. Yet, there were other scenes which just lacked the visual flair of the animated picture.

The I Just Can’t Wait To Be King segment was a shadow of the 1994 version, as was the Be Prepared number. This is a trend throughout most of the movie, and the reason is because it’s a photo-realistic remake of an aminated film. You can do so much more with animated movies, and Favreau’s version really struggles to recapture that Disney magic.

It’s such a shame they decided to remake The Lion King. Their other remakes have been, up until now, much more enjoyable. Aladdin was good fun and Guy Ritchie was allowed to put his own spin on it. The Jungle Book was the same, as was Cinderella.

The Lion King falls into the same bracket as Beauty And The Beast. They just tried to keep it too close to the original. I hope that they learn from their mistakes. It does look like they’re going to take a slightly different approach with their upcoming remakes.

Mulan looks very interesting, and I like what I’m hearing about The Little Mermaid. Ultimately, however, I would rather Disney concentrates on making new films, but, you know, money…

Meanwhile, why not have a read of our articles on the five reasons why Tom Holland in the best Spider-Man ever, the five best movies in the MCU, and our explanation as to why Tomorrow Never Dies is the most underrated Bond movie ever.

You can also have a read of our reviews of Yesterday, Toy Story 4Spider-Man: Far From HomeAladdinDetective PikachuJohn Wick: Chapter 3 – ParabellumGodzilla: King of the MonstersAvengers: EndgameHellboy and Glass.

In the meantime, why not rewatch the original Lion Kingwhich you can purchase here!

The Lion King is in cinemas across the UK now.

Have you listened to our podcast yet? Small Screen Radio features Small Screen’s Film Club and Cinema Ramble. If you like movies, listen to our podcast.

There are no comments

Add yours

Have your say...