The new photorealistic version of The Lion King Movie is technically astounding. The animals look incredibly real, and the scenes of violence (lions fighting or being thrown into stampedes) have an earth-shattering impact that’s hard to deny.
James Earl Jones is perfect as Mufasa, the king of Pride Rock. The other lions and Sarabi also make for strong characters.
Lion King Movie Story
One of the most beloved Disney films, The Lion King is a triumph of animation and a cultural touchstone. Its opening sequence, “Circle of Life,” is an awe-inspiring ode to the interconnectedness of nature. It’s a moment so beautiful and powerful that it rivals the best National Geographic footage.
This new Lion King follows the 1994 version’s contours so closely that I was surprised to find out that they didn’t reuse James Earl Jones’s audio tracks from 25 years ago. In addition to some fresh scenes and sequences, the film also boasts photorealistic animals that appear more like high-caliber nature documentaries than animated characters.
Jon Favreau’s adaptation does have its share of problems, but this is still an entertaining movie. It’s a must-see for die-hard fans and anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to take a stroll through the savannah with the majesty of Africa as your backdrop. It’s also a great reminder of why Disney’s mass porting of its animated classics to live action is such a foolhardy move.
Lion King Movie Voices
A film is only as good as its characters and the voices that give them life. The original Lion King is no exception, with a cast of memorable characters from the wise Mufasa to the conniving Scar. And, of course, there’s the hilarious duo of Timon and Pumbaa who offer moments of pure joy throughout the tragic plot.
Favreau’s new version assembles a who’s who of voice talent for his live-action remake, including James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa from the animated original, Donald Glover as Simba, and Beyonce as Nala. But even with a dazzling roster of talent, this remake isn’t quite as magical as the 1994 classic.
The photorealistic animation is stunning but sometimes detracts from the emotional impact of the story. And, the animals’ inability to convey subtle expression can be a bit disconcerting at times. The one bright spot is the wonderful soundtrack, with timeless hits like Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Hakuna Matata.
Lion King Movie Music
The music in The Lion King is pretty much inseparable from the story itself. It carries more emotional weight, and provides more moments of suspense and awe than the bouncy blockbuster spectacle that is the film’s plot. From the ecstatic Zulu chant that opens the film, to the rousing drumbeats of “Be Prepared” and the everlasting anthem of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the musical elements of the movie are as vital as anything else in the film.
The challenge that Hans Zimmer and the cast faced when they returned to this project 25 years later was how to imbue Jon Favreau’s world of photo-realistic animals with the same level of depth and drama as the original. This was no small task, especially given that some of the songs are darker and more serious than the carefree ones that populate the 1994 film.
Lion King Movie Visuals
While the visuals in this remake are awe-inducing, they’re also jarring. It takes a while to adjust to the fact that animals are talking, and their photorealistic appearance gives them a fake-documentary look. This is most noticeable when the film focuses on violence or conflict, where the animal’s hyper-realism intensifies their physical strength and makes their roars seem like a stage performance rather than a real-life event.
While the music is great and the voice cast is excellent, this remake adds little to the original story. It’s a shot for shot remake and primarily sells itself on nostalgia, without adding anything substantial to the plot. This is a shame because the story is a classic. It would have been interesting to see the movie try a more modern take on the tale of Mufasa and his son, Simba, or even go for a less traditional approach like telling it nature documentary-style with zero dialogue. Chiwetel Ejiofor brings a gritty gravitas to the villainous Scar, and is a welcome departure from Jeremy Irons’ smooth 90s portrayal.