Close to the original, but far from great...
Review by Tim Goodwin
I need to preface this review by confessing my love for Disney's original 1994 Lion King. Sure, it might not be wholly original anyway, but it was the first film I saw at the cinema as a child with my mother. I cried when Mufasa died and am still moved by the story, the music and the themes it taught a 5-year-old me.
So 25 years later, this 2019 remake leaves us with one huge question: why remake it?
Surely, when the studio behind this generational classic decides to remake one of their most popular properties, they must have a new message to share or something special to show us. I guess that's what I hoped for going into the theatre.
Did I enjoy the movie? Sure! It's a technical masterpiece with breathtaking visuals copied shot-for-shot from the original film. The music was brilliant, because Hans Zimmer did a brilliant job last time. I knew the moments that I would feel excited or emotional or triumphant, and braced myself to feel what I knew I should feel.
But if I wanted all these elements and experiences, I should just watch the original film. The remake didn't bring anything new - a paint-by-numbers Lion King. It didn't have charm or personality. I think even without the original to compare, it would be a soulless film. It also suffers from strange pacing, jumping between scenes and tones without much intention.
Like all of these Disney remakes, the life-like animations always make me uncomfortable and bring new plot holes to life. I can believe talking animated characters, but when they look this realistic it never connects that those voices are coming from those mouths. Especially when those voices are so recognisable. James Earle Jones as Mufasa is the highlight and Billy Eichner may have actually improved on Timon, but the rest - especially Donald Glover (who I adore), Beyonce and Seth Rogan - all sound like themselves, not their characters.
The fun original meant all the animals can work together and sing songs together, but these photorealistic lions should eat that monkey. Or not be physically able to mature into an adult lion on a diet of just bugs in just one song. I shouldn't be thinking these plot holes in a film as I watch it, but couldn't help it.
Every film you go see you bring baggage with you from every other film you've seen. Any information about the director, or actors or the trailer - you bring that with you into the cinema. And I bought my little five-year-old backpack of loving that original film. Any moments of joy were brought with me already and if anything, this film reminded me of how good the original was.
If you don't care that much, you will enjoy this movie. If you want to save $15, I recommend watching Kimba the White- I mean, the original Lion King.