So we’re halfway through the year and after Dumbo and Aladdin we’re now on the third Disney live action remake and this time it’s the much anticipated The Lion King (rumours that it was to be a reworking of Donald Trump’s Presidency titled The Lying King remain unfounded). It’s a pretty big undertaking as the original 1994 film was the studios highest grossing animated film (until they bought Pixar) and the films open with the studios ionic Sleeping Beauty castle logo in traditional animated form as a no to the 1994 film before we’re taken through to the African landscape where Simba as a lion cub is presented to the rest of the animal kingdom as their future king. And it’s this first scene that lays out the animals in their full astonishing photo realistic glory. This first sight of Simba as an almost impossibly cute cub is sure to have every child going, ‘ahhh’ and wanting one for Christmas.
As the heir apparent to his father Mufasa’s throne it’s all too much for his Uncle Scar, a scrawny unloveable embittered lion envious that it was not he who became king and now that Simba is on the scene is even less likely to inherit the scene. Clearly someone at Buckingham Palace was making mischief when they arranged for sixth in line to the throne Prince Harry to attend the recent European premiere in London. Voiced by Chiwetl Ejiofer he doesn’t quite have the fruity drawling cadence of Jeremy Irons who was Scar in the original but he’s still pretty good in the role. This version is almost a shot by shot remake of the original which includes the barnstorming stampede that Scar orchestrates that sees Mufasa killed in his attempt to save his son Simba and it’s an upsetting watch as Simba implores the now deceased Mufasa, ‘Dad, wake up!’ It’s one of those moments for a new generation that will rank alongside the death of Bambi’s mum. Thanks to Scar a distraught Simba blames himself for his Dad’s death and is urged to run away. Where he befriends Timon & Pumbaa, a meercat and boar voiced respectively by Billy Eichner & Seth Rogen and are a great comedy double act and undoubtedly one of the highlights of the film with Timba slightly camp and Pumbaa suitably boorish as they befriend Simba and ultimately come to his aid when he comes to realize that it was Scar who murdered his father in order to become king .
This Lion King remake detours little from the original but much like several of the previous live action films this is far longer than the original in this case it is by 30 minutes and it does start to drag towards the end. The all star voice cast are mostly unnecessary as their voices are not distinctive enough and it’s Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejifor and James Earl Jones (the only actor returning from the original) that come out best. But where this Lion King really towers is its ground breaking state of the art CGI because it is absolutely astonishing picking up where The Jungle Book left off and taking it to the next level. It is surely a shoo-in for the 2020 Oscars. But it’s this strength that is also the films weakness because the expression that the animators could freely give the animals in the 1994 cartoon version are here restricted by photorealistic animals unable to show human emotion. So this is all CGI on a shot for shot basis it’s difficult to see just how this can be directed but Jon Favreau, as seen with his version of The Jungle Book is very good at this sort of thing and the animals, especially as cubs, are super cute and there’s a built in audience for this type of thing.
The Lion King does look incredible and its story is engaging if a little overlong in this update.
Here’s a little piece about the Lion King that our A-list film star has put together for AnyGoodFilms (remember to subscribe!) ……