Lions be lions, man. And they are like in this whole circle of... life. And stuff... Yeah.
Here We Go Again…
Let’s cut the bull and get straight to the meat of things here, shall we? I am sick to death of writing this exact same review time and time again. Saying no more than, “This is another ‘shot for shot’ live-action Disney remake with no ambitions whatsoever.” It’s the same thing almost every God damn time now when Disney sh*ts out yet another “live-action” remake. Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin received live-action remakes that simply replicate the original screenplay with minor differences only to extend the runtime to two hours. That is all that they are, recreations without a soul. Granted, there have been a select few to break the mold in being more bold than the average conveyer belt remake. For better or worse, those rare entries at least took some risks with a more ambitious take on their narratives. 2019’s The Lion King, is not one of those shining innovative examples. It is the former.
It’s The Lion King… again.
No, I refuse to play along like I always do with these remakes and give a synopsis to something that everybody already knows. Everyone on the planet has undoubtedly seen the original 1994 animated film; they know what the story is about. The remake is no different except that it is a higher-budgeted animation this time around. Ta-freaking-da! There’s your plot summary.
Review On Fast-Forward
I’m not going to waste everyone’s time with describing the “new” Lion King because it’s basically a replica of the older one. So here are my really quick thoughts on the major aspects of this recent retelling of the classic tale.
It’s The Lion King, except slower and padded out to be needlessly thirty minutes longer.
Technically speaking, it is a well-made film and looks exceptional in terms of the special effects displayed to capture a very realistic African habitat with breathing wild animals. Although, why don’t I just watch an actual nature documentary or the original Lion King? Pretty to look at, but pointless.
The Voice Acting
Performance-wise, everyone is fine. No one does a terrible job, nor do they achieve greatness. The entire cast sounds completely uninspired and tired, especially when compared to the ’94 animation. Including the performance by the great James Earl Jones who reprises his role of Mufasa, this time around without anywhere near the determination in his voice.
Once more, it is fine. There is nothing technically wrong with the songs or music numbers in the flick, except that they lack the flare from the first movie. Nothing more to report.
Where’s the Problem?
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If everything I just described was mostly “fine” then why am I so angry about this particular remake? Because it is another addition in this long trend of lazy remakes where its only purpose is to ‘copy & paste’ the entire script of the original, but turn it into a two hour live-action version. This tactic is cynical, manipulative, and aggravatingly lazy. There is none of the magic, heart, or soul in any of these remakes that are so clearly seen in their predecessors. They exist so the studio can trick audiences into paying full ticket prices to watch a movie they can already see in the comfort of their own homes. On the Disney+ streaming service no less! These are the reasons as to why I am angry.
Not to mention that the problem keeps being reinforced by the millions of people duped into paying for these disguised re-releases. The Lion King (2019) made over half a billion dollars domestically in its theatrical run, then worldwide grossed 1.6 billion dollars. Things like this are what tells the studios not to give their audience anything new or original in any way, but to simply give us something we’ve already seen a hundred times before in a shallow repackaging. When the remakes of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast keep making billions of dollars, what reason is there for the filmmakers to do anything differently? Copy what’s already written and do it again. Bam! There’s another billion dollars right there in Disney’s pockets. Frankly, I’m pissed about how that ceases to change.
No One Cares
In every aspect it seems to me that no one cares. Everyone who was a part of the cast and crew did not care about remaking The Lion King, it feels like a paycheck movie for everybody on board. Maybe the members handling all of the animation, 3D modeling, environmental lighting, and VFX cared. Maybe. That’s about it though. And for whatever reason, moviegoers don’t seem to care that they are being coerced into shelling out more money to see a movie they probably already own. Why? Why are people pouring copious amounts of their hard earned cash for a product that has no soul? The original movie had a soul. There was thought, love, care, effort, emotion, artistic value, dedication, attentive detail in every frame of 1994’s Lion King. Yet, that is all completely missing in its most recent reenactment. Although I suppose the remake can get away with not having a soul because nostalgia will bring the suckers in every time. Nostalgia gives these rip-offs an unwarranted free pass.
Where Is the Line?
To an extent, I understand why filmmakers would want to play it safe when remaking these intimidatingly iconic Disney classics. Disney has affected the hearts of youths for decades now, to come in and try making something new might annoy the very loyal fanbase. Here’s the thing, safe can be fine, but when filmmakers are playing this horrendously safe then all we are left with is a product without its own identity. The Lion King remake does not have a distinguishing identity to separate itself from its source material, same goes for Beauty and the Beast and the countless others on the list. And no, being “live-action” does not count. There needs to be something more to a remake than, “It’s the first movie again, only more modern.” Whoopty-frikkin’-doodle-doo! Give us something new. Give us something that took more than five minutes to crap out a slightly re-edited script for.
Pete’s Dragon (2016), in my opinion, is a recent Disney remake that did things right. It’s a remake which has its own voice that is wildly different from the original movie, more ambitious in terms of storytelling, and still was able to connect with audiences without ripping off entire scenes or soundtracks from the 1977 picture. Of course the rare entry to spark a little more innovation than the rest is the one that practically flopped in our domestic market, making only eleven million on top of its 65 million dollar budget. Can anyone figure out what less ambitious, ‘shot for shot’ Disney remake financially blew Pete’s Dragon out of the water? That’s right! The Jungle Book, which made 364 million bucks domestically. Gee, I wonder what message studios took from that comparison.
On the other hand, where can ambition in a remake go wrong? Easily, the most ambitious Disney live-action remake of this year was Tim Burton’s Dumbo. The 1941 original is my absolute favorite Disney cartoon, the remake though is a movie I hated virtually every second of its 112 minute runtime. Dumbo is an example of how innovation can go horrendously wrong as the narrative was muddled by its change of focus from the animal characters to be directed more towards the human cast; a cast that was mostly either dull, or in the case of the leading children, horribly acted. Still, I cannot deny that there was a significant effort on behalf of the Dumbo remake taking extreme chances to create a totally different story. Unfortunately, this was an example where the aspirations did not pay off. Both within its content as well as financially not coming close to breaking even at the box office domestically.
Which Is Worse?
This is such a difficult question for me right now because I will admit that I hate the Dumbo remake more than I do The Lion King one. Hell, I don’t even hate The Lion King remake, only what it represents. However, I have more of a respect for Tim Burton’s Dumbo over Jon Favreau’s Lion King. Like I said, this is far from easy for me to answer. With Dumbo, there it at least an attempt in creating something new and original, but still turned out to be a terribly irritating movie with an ill-advised focus. With Lion King, all it is made for is to cynically recreate the same movie all over again with no real care or heart thrown in, but still turns out a mediocre and lackluster version of the original that is technically better than Dumbo. Dumbo, I will remember hating for a very long time. Lion King, I will forget about until the next inevitable Disney remake robs fans of their wallets once more.
Even if it results in a worse movie, I would rather take the riskier filmmaking over the uninspired. At the very least, I can say that I could feel some sort of passion to a remake that tried and failed instead of one that never tried at all and achieved nothing. I can’t truly get mad at the new Lion King movie, I’m not mad at the movie itself at all, I’m mad at the filmmakers behind it though because of their laziness and greed. When talking strictly about Favreau’s remake on its own merits, there’s nothing specific to get all that angry about. Dumbo though, is a movie that I can get passionately upset over strictly on its own qualities and not the questionable practices of the producers. Personally, I certainly can understand why someone would favor The Lion King remake over the Dumbo remake. At no point am I saying that Dumbo is even a better movie, I’m only speaking on my own preferences. So if I’m given only two options to watch a bad remake; one being a lazy and lame cash-in while the other is genuinely trying but failing, I’d rather watch the latter as opposed to the former.
I’ve said my peace. Disney is refusing to do anything different with their live-action remakes as their number one concern seems to be taking what people love and cloning it in a shiny new presentation. If someone were to watch The Lion King remake and say they liked it, I totally understand as to why and wouldn’t have any dispute on the matter. Unless that person claimed it to be different or original in any way, then I’d have some qualms. Other than that, it’s a generic remake of a great movie. Visually speaking, yes, it is an achievement for special effects in movie history. There is no doubt about that. Although the original is also a visually grand achievement in moviemaking history. In my opinion, it’s a more stunning picture to behold and only accomplished through 2-Dimensional drawings. There’s more emotion felt in every vocal line delivered and expression sketched. Plus, there is far more of an epic scale to its story than anything seen in its remake. Therefore, rendering the remake entirely pointless. Watch the original, show your children the original, there is nothing to gain from this “live-action” copy and pasting feature.
The Lion That Roared Loudest?
That’s All Folks…
I truly apologize that this was less of a review of the movie and more of a rant on this specific remake trend going on with Disney currently. What did you think of the 2019 Lion King remake though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wonder why the song ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ played during a daytime scene in the remake? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a hakuna matata day!
© 2019 John Plocar
Jacqueline G Rozell on November 24, 2019:
They have made the mistake of thinking they can do to the Disney classics the same thing they have done to the comics.... but the comics are still-life and we gave them voice and personality in our own heads. So it was wonderful to see them come alive on the screen. They can't treat animation-to-live-action the same way.
Jacqueline G Rozell on November 24, 2019:
Disney has only itself to blame. The fantastic artists and animators who put the life and expressions into the animated versions give them such personality, making them human in their thoughts, speech, actions and facial expressions. Doing a live action version to match the original, indeed, to top the original, would have to be on a par with a studio trying to find current actors to fill the shoes of iconic actors of the past, should they attempt to reboot a classic film. The animated characters of these classic films have to be RECAST in the human component, not just copied. Don't know if I've explained properly how I feel about this, but that's the thing for me. How could any human ever have the whimsical beauty, grace, and presence of the animated Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine... only a ballerina, trained in the graceful movement of classical dance would ever be able to come close to the flowing steps, the arm and hand movements, of any of those characters. As for the Prince Charming characters... all I can say is, studios would have to go to Korea and Japan for the drop-dead facial feature beauty we have associated with our fairy tale prince. The Asian actors can't be beat for looks and grace in movement. And most of them can SING which is a feature of Disney Prince Charming's.
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on November 24, 2019:
You most definitely have a solid point there. It would be one thing if these "live-action" remakes did something in their own voice. But no, it's just an excuse to get people to pay for the same exact movie again. Leaving the original unscathed in their higher status.
Jacqueline G Rozell on November 24, 2019:
Having been so enchanted with the animated versions, I have never watched the "live action" productions of any of Disney's fare. Some things cannot be improved upon. Like.... every time a product I've been using for years announces it has a "new and improved" design, I go to another brand. "New and improved" always leaves me longing for the "first and best."