Arts movie review

A pointless remake

‘The Lion King’ returns in photo realistic quality

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Mufasa (James Earl Jones) shows his son Simba (JD McCrary) the vastness of their kingdom.
Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

The Lion King
Directed by Jon Favreau
Screenplay by Jeff Nathanson
Starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner
Rated PG, Playing July 19

If you’re unfamiliar with the original 1994 The Lion King, there’s no need to worry because the new movie is basically the same thing except put through a photo realistic CGI transformation. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the new The Lion King, but I had hoped exactly copying the original wasn’t going to be the case.

For those who haven’t seen the original movie, the basic story is this: a young lion cub named Simba (JD McCrary) looks up to his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), who is the king of Pride Rock. Meanwhile, Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) resents Simba taking his place as next in line for the throne but manages to stir up a tragedy that forces Simba into exile. While in exile, Simba meets Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), who teach him to forget his past, but it’s ill-advised when his past eventually comes back to teach him how to actually grow up. Overall, not a complicated story. 

Before I start criticizing why Disney bothered making the movie in the first place, I will admit that it’s beautifully made. If nothing else, The Lion King can show off how far we’ve come in the realm of CGI. All the animals and landscapes are rendered really convincingly. There were times when I wondered if the production team just filmed sets in the real world and overlaid the animals after the fact because everything just looked so realistic. If the animals weren’t speaking in English, I could see how it could be easily confused for a really dramatic nature documentary.

The all-star cast also helps bring a lot of hype around The Lion King. I mean you have Donald Glover and Beyoncé starring as Simba and Nala! As you’d probably expect, their voices were amazing in numbers like “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” 

On the flip side of that, the casting of people like John Oliver, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Seth Rogen (a.k.a. people who aren’t particularly known for their singing ability) made the prospects for the other musical numbers in the film a bit more questionable. Unfortunately, my thoughts on this were pretty on par with what I ended up getting. 

John Oliver as Zazu during “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is really half-hearted. He just sounds like a bored British man rather than the frazzled, screaming hornbill I was expecting to hear. Although, I would say the bigger disappointment lies with “Be Prepared” because it didn’t even make it as a full length song. It was more like Scar doing a spoken word poem about how much he wanted to be king rather than the energetic chaos of a rallying tune we get in the original. 

Generally speaking, it’s hard to see why Disney made The Lion King aside from it being a money grab. Sure, it has the all-star cast, the beautiful graphics, and a factor of nostalgia, but that’s basically all there is to it. Aside from a few new jokes, this movie is basically the same movie Disney released in 1994, and I can’t help but feel disappointed in their lack of originality and innovation. It seems we will just have to keep waiting for the next Up or Ratatouille calibre original.