It might be the most iconic Disney-film ever created. No wonder the creators of the remake tried to leave it as close to the original as possible, but that is also one of their greatest mistakes.
The Original – Success
Watching the original Lion King is almost a sacred thing. For those of us who grew up in the 1990s, it’s the cinematic hymnal of our decade. The songs were epic, and the story was breathtaking. It became one of the biggest cinematic successes and set a new record in VHS sales. It also received massive praise and collected several awards, such as two Academy Awards, Golden Globe Award for best motion picture – comedy and musical, it received a BAFTA in 2004, it won an American Music Award for top Soundtrack in 1996 and several others. To try to remake it would necessarily mean high expectations from everyone, and one should expect that whoever would dare to remake it would do so with a plan of how to perfectionate the story and to make it even better.
The Breathtaking SCENERY
There are several places where the creators achieve that. The animation is breathtaking and at times one is simply waiting for Sir David Attenborough’s voiceover. By making the surroundings look like the real life, they are both creating an impressive display and losing some of the magic of fantasy. And to be honest, I believe the viewers would rather have a bit of magic then seeing what they have seen in real life. This also goes for some of the characters. The lack of facial expression of the lions, sometimes kills the drama that was supposed to unfold.
Except the breathtaking views, there are some adaptations that makes the story better then the original. That goes for Scar bringing Simba to the gorge, but perhaps more so when we get a glimpse into the relation between Scar and Sarabi. There is also some part where the film is made better by some humoristic references to the original Lion King. In general, the best parts are where the director John Favreau and the writers allow the actors to go outside the original version. The film is often very close to the original but making variations of the dialogue we all know so well. That does not improve the film.
Music and Soundtrack
One of the most intriguing parts, for me, is that they brought Hans Zimmer along to remake some of the magic that he created in 1994 in the original score. This works well. Unfortunately, the singers are not adding value to the songs by their performance and the one new song that is introduced is replacing a musical masterpiece. That is not to say that the singers are not good, but they are not letting the songs speak for themselves.
For better or Worse?
When it comes to casting, there are several good decisions made. Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner as Pumba and Timon, is where the casting really ads value. Also the dynamics between the two hyenas Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari) and Eric André (Azizi) is a fun addition to the movie (although I miss Ed). But there are also some of the casting that does not bring life to their character, whereby Beyoncé probably is the primary example. I suspect it to be partly due to the lack of facial expression of the lions and the script, but a little more creativity and demonstrating a broader variety of emotions would have made all the difference.
It is seldom that I feel that movie-critique match my own experience of a movie. Often the films may face critique, but still make a great and entertaining experience to watch. In the case of Lion King 2019, I must say that the critiques often express my own experience. The movie is fine and will probably find its way into newer generations heart, but it is not a good movie. Despite some few contributions that makes the film better, the general impression is that this movie would not make it close to the same level of excellence today, as the original once did. Even the sequels are better then this adaptation.
The reason that it is not a particularly good movie, is partly because the creators do respect the original version too much. The casting is ok, but the animation does not manage to express the emotions that the actors try to create. The movie also seems to hurry a little along, not letting the dialogue, the mood and the emotions settle.
That is not to say that the creators of the new movie made an horrible job, but it actually reminds of how brilliant the original creators were. They made 88 minutes feel like a much longer and more exciting journey, then the 118 minutes in the new version (and yes, I watched the old one again to compare).