Friday, July 19, 2019

The Lion King: Movie Review

Rich visuals adds to the original.

I was a teenager who saw the original Lion King in theaters and probably saw it a dozen more times in the years that followed; however, I haven’t seen it in around twenty years, and haven’t given the film that much thought since. I don’t have any kids and feel no great attachment to the original. It was a film I liked at the time, and then grew up. I give this backstory only because it feels necessary since so many reviewers (and viewers alike) are coming at this remake from different places.   2019

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Screenplay by: Jeff Nathanson

Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, and Billy Eichner

It seems that blockbusters of this ilk are only viewed in comparison to the original, or for kids who are seeing it for the very first time. My attempt to do neither has resulted in a review that fits squarely in the former, hence the backstory. I didn’t think the 2019 version was made for me and stayed out of most discourse, but my mother (who never saw the original) was really swayed by the marketing, so I ended up joining her in the opening night hype.

It was thoroughly engaging, had me tense up during all the “frightening” scenes, and had me rooting for Simba on his journey from adventurous cub to courageous lion – despite the fact that I knew the story already and the new film made no major detours from the original.

The primary reason this film works as well as it does is the life-like animals. The richness of the visuals adds to the richness of the characters, and every step or mis-step that young Simba and Nala take matters. It is fun, but the realness of the animals makes it interesting too.

The entertaining aspects of the film were delivered by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen. The meerkat and warthog are hilarious and, again, it’s the life-like visuals that add to the humour. Some have argued that their scenes don't have as much going on in them as the original does – this is probably true, but they don’t need anything more. The banter between Timon and Pumbaa is funnier this time around. They are also responsible for the best rendition of a song from the original. Their “Hakuna Matata” stands up in comparison to the originals, more so than “Circle of Life” and especially “Can You Feel Love the Tonight” – which falter under the reverence of the original counterparts.

In addition to Eichner and Rogen, John Oliver as Zazu did great voice work as did young Simba (JD McCrary) and adult Simba (Donald Glover). Ultimately, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film whose use of new technology really adds to the story and humour.