The Lion King movie reviews: Critics call it an unnecessary remake
Read on for what critics think of the new CGI version of The Lion King directed by Jon Favreau, and featuring the famous voices of Beyonce, Donald Glover and Seth Rogen.
Everyone has an opinion about Disney’s remakes, and so rarely do they fall in the realm of ambivalence. We’ve got those fervently defending The Lion King, excited at the prospect of revisiting a childhood favourite in a new fashion, and hearing a new soundtrack bolstered by US singer Beyonce’s vocals. Then, we have those incensed by Disney’s endless live-action adaptations of its classic animated films. And some of these remakes fail to live up to their predecessors, which sadly appears to be the case with this year's The Lion King – the third and final live-action Disney classic to hit the big screen in 2019 after Dumbo (in March) and Aladdin (in May).
With a stellar director (Jon Favreau), stunning visuals, and an all-star cast, The Lion King should be a slam-dunk. Unfortunately, though, most critics seem to be in agreement that despite being a feast for the eyes, the film is an unnecessary remake that doesn't go out of its way to be more than a rehash of the animated classic. As it stands, the film is currently sitting at a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on some 300 reviews so far. This slightly new version of The Lion King boasted a new cast that comprised of the likes of Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Seth Rogen, complete with James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa.
Watch the trailer here:
So, why did Disney remake the 1994 animated classic The Lion King into a 2019 CGI spectacle? Probably for the same reason they remade their animated hits Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo and Aladdin — to cash in again on their intellectual property for additional profits. But double-dipping sometimes pays off artistically; critics generally admired the 2015 version of Cinderella and the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book. Both were Oscar contenders, with Jungle Book winning for its visual effects.
So, how does The Lion King fare by comparison? It depends on who you ask.
Critics are divided on The Lion King. Some agree about the technical marvel of its visuals, saying it has the “photorealism” of a nature documentary like “Planet Earth” — “you expect David Attenborough to start narrating at any moment.” Director Jon Favreau, who also made the Jungle Book remake, “lavishes care on the look of the film,” but since all the CGI means the movie is nearly as animated as the original, and the story doesn’t deviate, there’s also more concern over whether this particular remake justifies its existence. “It’s hard to say why it’s needed,” and hearing the same songs and dialogue come from more realistic animals is “distinctly jarring.”
So, just how harsh are critics being on Disney's latest live-action venture? Well, let's just say, while the film looks likely to be king of the box office, it more than likely won't become the classic that the animated film has become. The Lion King soared at the US box office with an estimated $185 million in ticket sales over the weekend, the highest opening in July ever, reports CNBC.com. The previous record was held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which earned $169.1 million during its debut in 2011. The Lion King has already earned $270.5 million worldwide, including over Rs. 13.17 crore on its opening day in India on Friday, July 19, Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh tweeted.
Before you book your tickets, read snippets of a few The Lion King movie reviews by critics:
A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times: "There is a lot of professionalism but not much heart. It may be that the realism of the animals makes it hard to connect with them as characters, undermining the inspired anthropomorphism that has been the most enduring source of Disney magic. Real lions don’t sing — not even like Beyonce — and don’t actually govern other creatures. The closer the movie gets to nature in its look, the more blatant, intrusive and purposeless its artifice seems. It might have worked better without songs or dialogue: surely the Disney wizards could have figured out how to spin an epic tale of royal succession and self-discovery through purely visual means. Or else someone could have spent a few months teaching the digital Pumbaa to whip up a nice tofu scramble."
Jake Coyle wrote in AP: "Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, so abundant with realistic simulations of the natural world, is curiously lifeless. The most significant overhaul to an otherwise slavishly similar retread is the digital animation rendering of everything, turning the film's African grasslands and its animal inhabitants into a photo-realistic menagerie. The Disney worlds of cartoon and nature documentary have finally merged… The Lion King is missing something. A purpose, maybe, and a heart. The life expectancy of Disney classics has begun to feel more like a hamster wheel than a circle of life, and it’s getting harder and harder to feel the love. "
Rohan Naahar wrote in Hindustan Times: “The new Lion King is like a deeply triggering and very expensive episode of Planet Earth narrated by Childish Gambino, here to traumatise a whole new generation of viewers. Falsely described as a live-action remake, the film is, more accurately, a photorealistic animated demo reel for times to come, when actors and emotion are rendered obsolete, and our entertainment needs are facilitated by one corporation trapped in a circle of life of its own making. For a film that exists purely to make money, it is narratively bankrupt - a shot-for-shot remake of a universally beloved classic that is ironically less affecting, despite aiming for realism, than the cartoon that inspired it.”
Mihir Fadnavis wrote in Firstpost: “The Lion King is aggressively mediocre in every department except for the visuals. Make no mistake, this is one of the most beautiful looking films ever made, but it lacks both heart and nuance. The story remains the same – somewhere in the Pride Lands of Africa King Mufasa (James Earl Jones reprising his role) is blessed with a child whom he names Simba (JD McCrary and Donald Glover). Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wants to take over the throne so he plots to get rid of the king and his child, and Simba has to learn about life away from the comfort and privilege of his home. If you’re only interested in gawping at the visual boundaries a film could push The Lion King will blow your mind because there is absolutely no way to tell where the ‘live action’ ends and the CGI animation begins. Everything, from a blade of grass to the eyeballs and fur of the lions is 100 percent photorealistic.”