The Lion King fails to recapture the magic of the original with a mediocre remake that adds nothing but pretty visuals and some effective humor to compensate its lack of originality and emotion.
The film finds the birth of lion Simba, the heir to the Pride Lands, and his uncle’s mission to take him and his father down to have the throne for himself.
Jon Favreau directs another “live-action” remake after The Jungle Book, an excellent family film that added enough new material and emotion to that story to make it compelling enough. Unfortunately, Favreau mostly misses the mark here. While intentions, at least from the talent involved, seem to be with good heart, the director seems to mostly focus on perfecting the photo-realistic technology he introduced in his previous film and add it to this classic instead of actually injecting anything new of note, which ultimately becomes a product lacking any flavor. Even the visual effects, as groundbreaking as they are, don’t necessarily work for this story — the main characters’ expressions are mostly absent for the majority of the film, adding to a noticeable disconnection it struggles with from the audience. The original film’s most cartoonish and dramatic scenes are boiled down to simple and not-as-effective sequences in order to justify the realism Favreau seems to be so obsessed with obeying, robbing many heartfelt moments and making some musical sequences much less interesting in the process.
In the past, other live-action remakes Disney has put out have at least tried to add something to the table, and while not always succeeding, you had to give credit for at least trying to not making it seem just an easy cash-grab. But here, Disney opts to put out a film that lacks any originality that you’d be surprised to find out this isn’t the same script read by other actors with much less enthusiasm. With Beyoncé in the cast, and several songs from the Broadway musical absent in the original film, the studio had the opportunity to add to the experience and even create new songs. Instead, only “Spirit”, a new song by Beyoncé, plays in the background for less than 30 seconds and feels very out of place. Other songs, like the excellent “Be Prepared”, are modified to fit into a supposedly darker tone and ultimately only disappoints.
And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with this remake: it adds nothing new but takes out many things. Sure, it’s still a mostly inoffensive, fun time, especially for the nostalgia and visuals that only remind you to go back to the original, but it’s inevitable to feel cheated once this film ends and to wonder if Disney themselves have any idea what was the point of doing this in the first place other than making quick money.
Great direction, stunning visuals and some laughs barely save this shot-for-shot remake from its lack of originality and emotion that was once so present not only in the original film this is remaking, but in Disney films in general, a fact that seems to fade even more by the end of this film.