'The Lion King' (2019): Non-Spoiler Review
Everything the Light Touches...
The past year we have seen beloved Disney animated movies come to life through live-action remakes with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and recently Aladdin. With both the latter doing extremely well at the box office, all eyes were on Disney when the live-action The Lion King was announced. Director? Cast? Comparison to the original? I will answer all the above and more regarding the classic Disney tale of the young lion, Simba, who couldn't wait to be king. No spoilers, in other words, it means no worries for the rest of this article. *Wink*
Official Movie Poster
Director and Vision
Before I introduce the director and cast, some context on the story. The tale takes place in Africa where we follow a lion cub, Simba, the prince to the animal kingdom and his journey through life, love, friendship and loss all related to the crown that he is destined for. The title of the movie sums it up perfectly? Firstly, who would the directorial and creative responsibility be given to in order to bring this classic to life? John Favreau. If you need some assurance of his ability, look no further than Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and The Jungle Book. Safe to say the movie was in good hands as all the prior mentioned movies were box-office hits while also received critical acclaim. Did somebody say certified fresh? Also why the mantle was given to him was that all the prior mentioned movies involved CGI and as you can imagine, bringing the concept of talking and singing animals to life would take some experience in the field.
Cast and Performances
If you have seen the original, I'm sure you have big expectations for certain characters being cast, namely Simba, Nala, Zazu, Rafiki, Timon & Pumba, Mufasa, Sarabi and of course the villain, Scar. *Screams Internally* Not to worry, the casting was to perfection. At least in my opinion. A difficult task I would have imagined would be finding actors who can deliver the performance, while also be able to sing the original songs. Fortunately enough, that level of talent exists in modern Hollywood with the likes of Donald Glover (Community, Star Wars, Atlanta) taking on the lead as Simba, while his love interest Nala is being portrayed by Beyonce'. If Donald Glover doesn't ring a bell, you may know him by his stage name that he performs under, Childish Gambino. After hearing only those two names, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. This is because both these stars have what it takes to bring the characters to life.
The kings' faithful subject Zazu is portrayed by political satire tv host, John Oliver (Last Week Tonight...), while Rafiki, the eccentric shaman was bestowed upon John Cani (Black Panther). Audience favourites and scene stealers Timon and Pumbaa will be played by comedic actors Seth Rogen (Long Shot, Kung Fu Panda) and Billy Eichner (Parks and Recreation). Rounding out the ensemble cast is Alfre Woodword (Cross Creek) as Sarabi and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dr Strange) as the villainous Scar. Now the best for last, the king of the pride lands, Mufasa. This was a role that could not be done justice no matter who would take it on today. That is why James Earl Jones, the original actor who voiced the might lion returned for the role himself. With this star studded cast, audiences are in for something special.
Cast of The Lion King
Performances and Reception
With the weight of the original hanging on the shoulders of everyone involved, including the childhoods of most adults in the theatre, the actors rose to the occasion and delivered stellar performances. Credit as well must be given to the visual and special effects team for bringing the concept of talking animals to life while making it believable at the same time. Glover was praised for embodying the essence of Simba while crowd favourites Timon and Pumbaa once again, stole the hearts of everyone just as they did in 1994 with the original. Another display of the talent that the cast possessed, was that all the original songs were performed and recorded themselves. All your favourites will come back to life and will be memorable, which is a given considering that the lead actors both have multiple Grammy Awards!
The reception was generally favourably from the critics who commended the visual appeal and performances while audiences on the other hand, only had positive commentary towards the re-make. They cited how special it was to take their children to witness the movie or even just to re-visit their childhood and feel the escape once again. I will leave you to decide for yourself, but considering that the movie has grossed over $1 Billion world wide, it is safe to say which side of the fence you will lean towards.
The Lion King
Comparison to the Original
Naturally with all remakes of a movie, there will always be the comparison to the original. In this case, the original was a special part of most people's childhood and is on a high pedestal so to speak. Almost as high as unveiling a new baby lion on a tall rock. The best way I can describe my feelings when watching the movie was that it was not the intention to re-make the original to every detail, but instead to draw inspiration from the original and pay homage to the storyline and characters. There are some small changes and nuances, but overall the live action has the same heart and feel good time as the original. All accompanied with the music and energy that will make you feel the same way you did with your popcorn and drink in the movie theatre all those years ago.
What a Wonderful Phrase...
In case you may have not been reading through the lines, The Lion King is the must see movie of the summer. Whether you go with your family, children or even by yourself, it is something you will not regret. You will also be able to draw your own unbiased opinion on this timeless tale. As for me you ask? I am off to enjoy the sunshine and do some exploring, but only as far as the light touches, if you know what I mean...
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Kedan Pentia