The Lion King brings one of Disney’s most beloved animated films to life in visually stunning photo-realistic CGI adaptation.
I’ve kept a close eye since Disney decided to update their library in a contemporary manner. I remember how impressed I was with The Jungle Book‘s Oscar-winning visual effects in 2016. Where these two Jon Favreau-directed films differ are that there is no motion-capture performances in The Lion King. It would have surely made a difference in capturing facial expressions but I left the film in such a high and loving it anyway. After all, the 1994 classic may very well be the best animated film of all time. The lack of facial expressions is certainly going to be up for debate.
We know we’re in for a treat from the moment we set our eyes on Pride Rock in the African savanna. The one-two punch of “Circle of Life” and “Nants’ Ingonyama” really help to set the tone. It isn’t just that the stunning visuals translate so well but Hans Zimmer’s score is downright phenomenal.
Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay takes just about everything that we love in The Lion King. There’s a few subtractions and additions. This helps to explain the film’s near two-hour run time. It is for the good of the film if I’m being honest. Among the songs, Chiwetel Ejiofor performs “Be Prepared” in a much different way than Jeremy Irons’ Scar. When Disney announced that James Earl Jones would be reprising his role as Mufasa, you can’t help but wish they did the same thing with Jeremy Irons for Scar. I get wanting to make this film its own thing but Ejiofor isn’t able to capture Scar’s personality in the same way. Oh, we’s still the great villain that he is in the classic but it’s certainly not the same.
What I especially love in the new film are Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen). Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen steal the film in a way that’s very different from the original classic. I will not lie in that I started to cry while watching them sing “Hakuna Matata” on screen. There’s more animals during these scenes so it’s one way to expand on the other film. I also love that “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” actually gets justice in this film. They’re able to get in the bulk of a fully realized number before Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) makes her presence known. This is one thing to like about these newer films. The techniques available in photo-realistic or live-action allow to expand on stories that were limited by the animation of its time.
People are going to love this film. There is no denying this because it is going to be a hit. Actually, it is going to smash the box office! We are talking about The Lion King here!
Elton John and Tim Rice contribute a new tune with end-credits song “Never Too Late.” Meanwhile, Beyonce’s “Spirit” is perfect. The tune fits the tone for the scene in which it appears. If you were wondering, Nala does not sing the song. The new songs help to make this film its own thing and stand on its own. The 1994 film will always be a classic. Whatever happens with the new film, this will never change. For the same reason, Julie Taymor’s stage musical will always be its own thing. While sticking mostly to the same script, there’s enough differences to stand apart.
I keep going back to Hans Zimmer’s score. It is a good thing he came back because this film would not be the same without him. Zimmer’s score is what helps to drive the emotion and allow us to feel what we’re feeling. There is a reason why he is one of the greatest living film composers in history. If there’s a Mount Rushmore for film composers, Zimmer is on it along with John Williams, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and the Sherman Brothers. Hell, there’s a clever nod to the duo of Menken and Ashman! I will not say more about this because I believe that I have already said too much.
This new version of The Lion King is sure to be a classic in its own right. It’s already my favorite film of the year.
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
SCREENWRITERS: Jeff Nathanson
CAST: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones.