Jon Favreau’s The Lion King (2019) is an almost shot-for-shot and word-for-word remake that is so faithful to the original that comparisons become inescapable. And when comparing the two, the remake simply does not hold a candle to the beloved classic.
The film follows the story of Simba (JD McCrary), a lion cub who is destined to take Mufasa (James Earl Jones), his loving father’s place as king, much to the dismay of his uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who proceeds to murder Mufasa. Simba blames himself for Mufasa’s death and flees his home, leaving Scar to seize the throne for himself. Years later, an adult Simba (Donald Glover) is living a carefree life with his new friends Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen). But this all comes to an end when Simba’s childhood friend, Nala (Beyoncé Carter-Knowles), finds him and forces him to confront his past and return home to end Scar’s tyrannical rule.
The film’s greatest strength is easily the visuals. The Lion King (2019) truly is a technical marvel and it’s easy to forget that nothing on screen is real. But the film’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The photo-realistic animals might look incredible, but their faces simply are not as expressive as their animated counterparts for obvious and unavoidable reasons, which sadly hinders some of the heavier emotional moments.
The songs are a mixed bag. Whilst I can remember my heart rate speeding up throughout the duration of The Circle of Life, I was severely disappointed by the half-hearted re-imagining of Be Prepared.
James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa and is wonderful as expected. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Scar is more restrained and less theatrical than Jeremy Irons and both Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen get big laughs as Timon and Pumbaa, but sadly the rest of the cast barely leaves an impression.
With the exception of the impressive CGI, The Lion King (2019) often struggles to justify its own existence. And even the hyper-realistic CGI is somewhat problematic and could potentially stop its audience from connecting with it in the same way they did with the original.
Reviewed by Jordan Ellis