One of the most beloved Disney films of all time gets the “live action” treatment thanks to the brilliant and visionary mind of Jon Favreau — but does it pay off?
Yes and no. I have a lot of mixed feelings and here’s why.
The Lion King is without a doubt, a visual effects milestone for film. Its intoxicating photorealism tricks you into believing you’re watching something out of National Geographic. It’s unlike anything you’ve experienced on screen and for that alone deserves praise.
Although the visual effects enhance the story, it also detracts from it. The “realistic” approach loses a lot of the charm and whimsy of the original film, specifically in the musical numbers. It also removes a lot of the heart and emotion. For instance, part of what makes Mufasa’s death in the animated film so devastating is watching Simba’s heart break on screen. You do not get the same effect here, which is super disappointing.
Another disappointment was the lack of originality in its script. I understand certain scenes are too iconic to not create shot by shot (like the art that is “Circle of Life”), but the other Disney live action remakes have taken a risk with its storytelling to modernize it or add more depth to the characters. Instead The Lion King just sticks to the script (except when they omit my favorite lines and completely destroy the lyrics of “Be Prepared” but I digress).
I think the casting was on par for the most part, specifically Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen who play Timon and Pumba. Their fresh humor and irresistible chemistry will make you fall in love all over again with the famous duo. Donald Glover and Beyoncé were strong as Simba and Nala, but I feel like that was a given.
Overall, it’s worth a watch but the nostalgia will fuel you wanting to return to rewatch the original.
Final Thoughts: The Lion King is beautiful and entertaining but the real king is the original (oh and the Broadway version). But honestly, kudos to Jon Favreau for spearheading this visual effects marvel.