I’ve been a bit hot and cold on these modern day Disney remakes. Luckily one of my favourites so far is The Jungle Book which was directed by Jon Favreau who also returns to direct The Lion King. Given how iconic the original 1994 version of the movie is, I can’t help but feel that expectations are a lot higher for this remake than it has been for others previously. So does this modern reimagining live up to the hype?
The writers definitely played it safe here, the majority of the movie is a scene by scene replica of the original with just a few added extras. I’ve seen a few critics mark this down as a negative but for me personally, I really liked it. Nobody is going into these movies because they want the story ripped up and retold, people are wanting to relive some of that Disney magic that captured them as a child and that’s exactly what this version of The Lion King achieves. The little extra parts which are added by the way are absolutely hilarious and although I’ll be talking spoilers for the main story (duh, we all know it!), I won’t spoil these little nuggets of joy.
The visuals are of course stunning. We’ve known this since the release of the first trailer but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still impressive, I can see this movie being a go-to for people to show off their new 4K TVs for years to come. One issue I had though was that the animals look so realistic that it took me a while to get used to it.. early in the movie I found myself missing the animated facial reactions that the 1994 version of the movie was able to utilise. I felt this most during the legendary Mufasa death scene, with the lions looking so close to real life it made it difficult to relate and didn’t feel half as emotional as the original. This may be different after a second viewing now that I’m more used to it but I can see this being an issue for a lot of people. Overall it did create a bit of a disconnect but given how good the voice acting was, this wasn’t too much of a problem.
Bringing back James Earl Jones to voice Mufasa was a small stroke of genius. He brings weight and importance to the character that worked in 1994 and is now working in 2019. However I was chatting to Luke after we both saw the movie and we both agreed if you’re bringing James Earl Jones back then why not try bring back Rowan Atkinson as Zazu as well? It would have been nice to see that chemistry back on the big screen again. Not that John Oliver doesn’t do a great job with the role, he does. It’s just that bringing them both back would have been a nice touch. For the most part everybody does a great job with their parts though for me there’s a couple of obvious stand outs and one obvious misstep.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. Beyoncè I’m looking at you. She voices the adult version of Nala and obviously her singing voice for ‘Can you feel the love tonight’ is mightily impressive and Disney having her on board for a tie-in album and marketing is obviously a very smart move but when it comes to actually voicing her dialogue she falls way behind everybody else. She sounds flat, bored and way too old for the young adult she’s supposed to be portraying. Luckily Nala doesn’t play a huge role so it’s not too damaging to the overall experience. Onto the positive! Seth Rogan was born to voice Pumbaa and Billy Eichner is equally as impressive and hilarious as Timon. The duo are the clear highlight of the movie and had me smiling from ear to ear every time they were on screen. They pull off the old humour with ease and bring new jokes that land every time without fail. As a child I was never interested in the Lion King sequels and spin-offs but if we can get Rogan and Eichner together again then I’m all in for sequels now! Just not with Beyoncè, she can get in the bin.
The music is brilliant – obviously. All the classics are back and thankfully aren’t changed up too much from the original. The nostalgia that I felt for these classics was there in force. The new songs that were added were fine at the time though if truth be told, I’ve already forgotten them. Hans Zimmer also makes a grand return to score the movie and to absolutely nobody’s surprise he does a brilliant job. In fact with the classic songs and brilliant score, this movie sounds near perfect from beginning to end.
So does The Lion King live up to the hype? I’ve got to say yes. Sure there’s a few bumps along the way but I believe that this remake does exactly what it sets out to achieve and that’s to bring an undeniable classic to a modern audience. Thanks to a wonderful cast, brilliant soundtrack and a simple unchanged story (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it), this has jumped right to the top when talking modern day Disney remakes.