After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery. (from IMDb)
Until actor/director Jon Favreau reimagined The Jungle Book as a live action film for theaters in 2016, the thought of making a live action version of The Lion King might have seemed ludicrous at best. However, the term "live action" here is quite loose, as rumor has it Favreau said only one scene in the film contains live action footage. This means that the rest of 2019's The Lion King is computer generated animation. So this continues to inspire the question: "Why?" (Well, besides big box office returns) and "Do we really need it?"
After his films Elf, Zathura, and arguably the highest point of his career, 2008's Iron Man, I've grown to have a lot of respect for Jon Favreau as a filmmaker. (And I'm truly looking forward to his live action Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian.) His version of The Jungle Book was even truly impressive. So, with The Lion King--admittedly not one of my favorite of the Disney animated classics, and so I couldn't get myself too excited about it--I still knew Favreau could make it work, and he definitely does.
I may be in the minority, but I found myself enjoying this version of The Lion King considerably more than the last time I watched the animated film. The biggest problem with this one, however? It's a near shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake. While there was enough that was different and unique about Favreau's Jungle Book to justify its existence, his version of The Lion King merely has its format as its greatest difference and strength. The realistic visuals are truly a marvel and wonderful to behold. Sadly, the downside is you do lose the warmth and emotion of the expressions you get from the original Disney animation, and that may be this film's greatest setback. Furthermore, the voice performances don't always compensate either, with Donald Glover's somewhat dry delivery of adult Simba being the most noticeable. On the other hand, having James Earl Jones reprise his role as Mufasa is inspired, and Seth Rogen stepping in as Pumbaa is a brilliant choice. (Unfortunately, Billy Eichner, whose addition to the Parks and Recreation cast for the later seasons may have been one of the lowest points of the show, plays Timon far too flamboyant, vocally. His performance didn't quite match Nathan Lane's original take.)
There really are plenty of great moments in this new version, though. While Chiwetel Ejiofor isn't quite able to top Jeremy Irons' original performance, the character of Scar is as creepy and intimidating as ever. And the hyenas are so disturbingly realistic looking that they do their job well in bringing the necessary sense of dread and unease to the audience. The scenes between Mufasa and young Simba are all standouts, as well as the ferocious climactic showdown between Simba and Scar. You'll likely forget, at times, that you're still watching animation; it's really a beautiful looking film.
The content for the movie is similar to the original, but definitely amped up in intensity. Having the characters looking realistic adds a lot to the tension. (I could see my 8-year-old son having trouble getting through the fog-covered and eerie hyena scenes, for example.) The scene involving Mufasa's death is definitely intense and sad, and the climactic fight is pretty rough. The only blood in the movie is briefly seen on the fur of a lion when it is struck with a clawed paw, and on Scar's mouth as he feasts on a dead animal (which is shot in a way that we don't see the gore of the animal). However, we see a couple moments where hyenas overpower an animal and, although it's shown at a distance or in shadow, we see the motions of them ripping and tearing at unseen flesh. There isn't really any language in the film, however, it does sound like Timon says "My G-d" shortly after we first meet him. And there's no real sexual content, but a joke is made by Zazu reporting that a few giraffes were caught "necking."
Did we need this remake of the The Lion King? In all honesty, no. But Favreau's take is just different enough to make it worth at least a viewing by fans of the original and any of these live action remakes. Some will like it better, while diehards will surely scoff at its mere existence. All in all, though, 2019's remake of The Lion King is, at the very least, a sincerely entertaining visual achievement.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/21/19)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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