The thing about Disney remakes is that it has become a hit-or-miss kinda deal. Sure, they’ve all managed to rake in that nostalgia coin  to justify them making another, but not have all been as well-loved as their original animated counterparts. Cinderella did surprisingly well as an expansion of the original movie. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, tried to do the same but was heavily criticized for its lackluster lead and assumed pandering. Jungle Book was critically acclaimed. Dumbo… happened. People were expecting the recent summer hit Aladdin to fall flat on its face but its brilliant remastering of the old iconic soundtrack, its brilliant cast, and a very respectful performance by Will Smith managed to win people over. Now, people have their eyes on Lion King Disney‘s latest venture in live action adaptations. How does it stack compared to all its live action predecessors? And how does it fare compared to its original iconic animated counterpart?

Spoiler alert: not that great. 2019 Lion King decided to pursue an “ultra-realistic” rendition of its characters while still trying to embody the spirit of the original. And as any artist would tell you regarding the issue of realism vs cartoon caricatures, there will be a lot of things sacrificed for the sake of a realistic look, such as the loss of dramatics and a sense of fantasy, especially when your material heavily calls for it.

The graphics of 2019 Lion King look great, sure, but at what cost? Let’s take the Circle of Life intro as an example as the live action did an almost frame-by-frame adaptation of the original. It pales in comparison due to the “realistic” lighting and grading. There are no emotions on the faces of Mufasa or Sarabi or any of the animals for that matter as Rafiki takes the infant Simba for that iconic scene on Pride Rock. It almost feels like someone just juxtaposed the soundtracked to some Animal Planet footage. That actuallly best describes the entire movie – like someone just fandubbed some NatGeo clips and called it a day – which is extremely disappointing and confusing as Jon Favreau, director of both Lion King and Jungle Book – also pursued a realistic approach with the latter but retained some caricature elements in terms of emotive facial expressions.

And it doesn’t stop there. If you think I’m just being highly nitpicky over the graphics, listen to the script and the delivery. I know we’re not supposed to have the baggage of comparing the original with its remake, but there are a lot of memorable scenes that felt desecrated due to the lackluster delivery in the remake – Long Live the King being one of the more prominent examples of how the downplaying of emotions in terms of both graphics and delivery can hurt a movie. Most of the script felt like a cold reading that doesn’t give the proper timing for the lines and the emotions to sit and take effect. It’s almost like everyone is just in a hurry to deliver their lines to get the scene over with, which doesn’t make sense in context. The scene where Nala meets Simba again after years apart felt like a skit as she went from “I haven’t seen you again. I missed you” to “You should take back the throne. Scar is killing everything” to “Can you feel the love tonight?” in like what? 5 minutes?

Not to downplay the cast or anything. In fact, I  believe some of them did great. Donald Glover was great as Simba though he was not as memorable as I’d like him to be. Beyonce was not as terrible as Twitter made her out to be – a little too overeager, sure, but believable to say the least. I was a little disappointed with Zazu, Timon, and Pumba as half the time they felt like they were too busy trying to make a joke to land or an impression to hit but just really didn’t. Scar was underwhelming as well. From an unnecessarily shortened Be Prepared number to less devious, smarmy monologues, he just felt generic and unconvincing.

Save for a few jokes like the The Lion Sleeps Tonight number and Timon‘s parody of Beauty and the Beast‘s, Be Our Guest, this is the first time I felt were a Disney movie didn’t really add value to my experience as a viewer, a Disney fan, or a Lion King fan. I’ve always believed that there would be something in anything (especially Disney) worth looking at despite how problematic they are. Heck, I can appreciate a lot about the live action Beauty and the Beast despite not liking it in general. Here’s to hoping Mulan turns it around, because this Lion King does not give me any pride or love tonight at all.

Lion King (2019)
Plot/Screenplay70%
Music75%
Casting90%
Cinematography80%
Design60%
The Good
  • It's not completely horrible
  • It's just not that good
The Bad
  • Everything about it is unnecessary
75%Overall Score
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