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Movie Review: “The Lion King”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Lion King

Theatrical Release: 7/19/2019

Theatrical Release: 7/19/2019

Synopsis

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) rules over a massive kingdom known as The Pride Lands. He is a strong king, a fair king, a wise king, and a respected king. Mufasa has had a new lion cub, named Simba, and hopes to teach the young cub everything he knows about being a good king. Unfortunately, there are those within The Pride Lands who want Mufasa’s rule to come to an end.

The Hyenas are greedy, insatiable predators that disturb the precious balance between prey and predator. Thus, Mufasa has set rules and limits regarding how frequently they can hunt. The Hyenas have been forced to live in the shadows, and they resent Mufasa for restricting them. Meanwhile, Mufasa’s jealous brother, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), wants the throne for himself and cannot stand the fact that his nephew will one day rule over him. Mufasa has kept the peace but, when tragedy strikes, and Simba (Donald Glover) goes missing, Scar and the Hyenas may finally have the opportunity that they have been waiting for.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Visual Effects (+10pts)

Emotion (-8pts)

Timon & Pumbaa (+3pts)

Beyoncé (-2pts)

The Story & The Nostalgia (+4pts)

Predictable (-6pts)

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Pro: The Visual Effects (+10pts)

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie was the visual effects. The scenery looked incredible, and the animals looked even better. I went into the movie knowing that it was one hundred percent CGI, yet I was still stunned by how realistic everything looked. Obviously, the animals were talking, so I knew it was not real, but the quality of the visual effects certainly could have fooled me.

It would be inaccurate to call this movie “live-action”, but it definitely appeared to be. The photo-realistic visual effects were awesome to see on the big screen. There was one pretty major flaw with remaking this movie in this way, but I will get into that flaw next. However, if I am just commenting on the visual effects, I would have to say that they were simply incredible.

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Con: Emotion (-8pts)

Humans have pretty expressive faces. From our lips, to our eyes, to our cheeks, and to our eyebrows, we have a lot of expressive features on our face. Most animals are not nearly as expressive, but the animals of this story have very human problems and emotions. In a cartoon or animated movie, this can work because the animals characters can be given very exaggerated, expressive, and unrealistic features.

By making this movie look so realistic, the filmmakers limited how expressive the characters could be. As a result, the characters, and (indirectly) the story as a whole, felt emotionless. To make this even worse, the one character that still had an expressive face (Rafiki) got no attention and was stripped of all of the personality that the character had in the original movie. Sure, the rest of the characters had voice actors who added some emotion, but audio is only half of the battle. The audio felt disconnected from the visuals, and the movie suffered greatly for it. The characters were missing emotion, and the story was missing the impact that the original movie had. The Lion King is a good story with great characters, but in this photo-realistic remake, I could not truly connect with any of them.

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Pro: Timon & Pumbaa (+3pts)

Of all of the characters in this movie, these two were probably my favorites. I thought Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner were great choices for these roles, and thought they were pretty entertaining. Seth Rogen played Pumbaa pretty much exactly the way you would expect him to, and the character worked. Billy Eichner, on the other hand, was impressively entertaining as Timon. He has a pretty good singing voice, so was able to handle the character’s musical requirements, but he was probably the most comedically entertaining character. The things he said and the way he said them were a perfect fit for this character. These two characters did not get a ton of focus, but I enjoyed every second that they were on screen.

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Con: Beyoncé (-2pts)

On paper, I thought Beyoncé was a great choice to play Nala. This was mostly due to knowing what songs Beyoncé would be singing, but after seeing the movie, I thought Beyoncé was probably given too little direction in her vocal performance. She was most likely left to do her own thing, and when she sang some of these iconic songs, it felt like she was trying to steal the show. It felt like she was over-complicating her songs in an effort to show how good she is.

Was it as bad as Fergie singing the national anthem? No (although you should look that up if you have not seen it), but it definitely took me out of the movie. These songs are pretty simple, and would have sounded great from the strength in Beyoncé‘s voice. Unfortunately, she got too caught up with trying to add her own spin to these songs, and (in my opinion) it ended up doing nothing but hurt them.

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Pro: The Story & The Nostalgia (+4pts)

The Lion King has a very human, and very simple story, which makes it effective. It is about coming of age, it is about loss, it is about responsibility, it is about friendship, and it is about betrayal. The characters are all animals, which is entertaining. However, the issues and relationships are very human, which makes the story relatable and easy to get invested in.

The movie also significantly benefited from nostalgia. The original animated movie is a beloved classic that many audience members will have grown up with. It has left an impression on a generation, and the filmmakers capitalized on that. Some of the characters (such as Rafiki) behaved very differently than they did in the original movie, but for most of the characters, that was not the case. Those of us who grew up with the original movie, got to see this re-imagined version, with most of the iconic characters and songs that we remember so fondly.

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Con: Predictable (-6pts)

This may sound like I am contradicting myself a bit, as I just said that nostalgia was one of this movie’s strengths, but I thought this movie was too predictable. Remaking a beloved, classic movie is sort of a double-edged sword. On one side, the filmmakers got to capitalize on the audience’s fond memories of the original. On the other side, making an almost shot-for-shot remake will bore those in the audience who remember the original well (as most of us do). The filmmakers claimed to have added some extra content to the story, but some of that was spent literally following a ball of poop on its journey through “the circle of life”. I get that changing the story in any significant way would have resulted in some audiences hating on the movie, so adding content (as opposed to changing content) was definitely the right call. Unfortunately, I think the filmmakers made a bad call when deciding what content to add.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (76pts)

The Lion King is another live-action remake of one of Disney’s classic animated movies, but the term “live-action” is not exactly accurate. The movie was made entirely using CGI and it looked absolutely incredible. The beautiful scenery, and the incredibly realistic CGI animals, made the visual effects the best thing going for this movie. The next best thing would have to be the classic story with all of the nostalgia to remind the audience of the Disney classic that they remember so fondly. Unfortunately, the best things about this movie ended up being double-edged swords, as they both had pretty significant side effects.

By remaking a story that audiences still remember well, the filmmakers made a movie that audiences will find very predictable. This is probably more true for this movie than it has been for any of Disney's live-action remakes that have come before, because of how well we still remember this story. The result is a decent story, but will be somewhat boring to anyone in the audience who has seen the original. By making the characters so realistic, the filmmakers made characters without expressive faces. As a result, the characters were missing very necessary emotion, making it difficult to connect with them. This was not a bad movie, but its strengths came with some pretty significant weaknesses.

Comments

Movie Beasts (author) from MA on September 12, 2020:

Haha thanks for the comments, Dale. I’m glad you’re enjoying these reviews.

Hopefully your wife has not been replaced by a clone!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 12, 2020:

My wife LOVES the animated Lion King but she refuses to watch this one. No idea why. Maybe she's been replaced by some kind of replicant clone from a far off alien race? Who knows? I remind her that she hated the idea of the stage play too.... until we saw it and it was fantastic.

Movie Beasts (author) from MA on August 02, 2019:

Thanks for the comments! Very honestly, the visual effects were outstanding. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, there is more to a movie than that.

Cinema-mania on August 01, 2019:

I am excited to see this one for the visual aspects of the film, however, I have heard it is a shot for shot remake. So, I'm a little concerned it will be unoriginal. Really good review!

Michael115 on July 31, 2019:

Great review! I feel like the movie suffered big time because of the line delivery and lack of expression. I guess that is what Favreau was trying to go for but that does unfortunately come with problems.