a review by the Spotted Nutcracker.
The Lion King is being called a remake of the 1994 animated movie of the same name. But is it really? When last the Swan put out his review of Aladdin, my score was listed wrong. I liked Aladdin, but I didn’t like it that much. And with The Lion King, things aren’t looking good on the Disney classics side for me.
(Let me explain.)
Disney’s breaking the box office with releases like Avengers: Endgame (we’ve had a blog post on that coming up for some time now, but don’t ask me) and it’s going to break it even harder with Avatar 2 (whenever that comes out). In the meantime, Disney’s been happy to remake their “classic” properties in live-action and watch the money roll in. And that’s not been working too badly for them. Beauty and the Beast was alright. I liked the new Alice in Wonderland a lot, just like I liked Maleficent. I even liked 101 Dalmations back when it was released and thought the 2016 version of The Jungle Book was really, really good.
But now it’s just getting a little bit too lazy.
What I mean by that is there’s no point calling something a remake if it’s exactly the same thing as the original. This 2019 version of The Lion King is pretty much just a new coat of paint. It’s the same situations, same shots, and what’s meant to be the same characters, just done in newer graphics. Everyone’s standing where they used to be, the camera looks like it was never really moved away from the original animation locations, and the whole thing is just the same. What’s the point of remaking it then? Why not just re-release the original?
I might make it sound harsh when I call it a new coat of paint, but that’s just what it is. And the worst thing is: it’s somehow managed to make things worse in some places. Please follow my points before jumping to conclusions because it’s taken me a while to get my thoughts on this organised.
The biggest problem is in how the characters look and act. They’re really realistic and that just doesn’t really work with what the movie’s trying to go for. Their faces barely move and I didn’t really get the idea that anyone cared about what they were supposed to be feeling. The forehead of security directed this movie, and what’s really surprising is that he did the 2016 Jungle Book, where the animals acting like humans actually worked. Here it doesn’t. It’s all really uncanny valley. And what makes it so uncanny is that this ISN’T a live-action film. This is a 3D animation being called live-action to fit the gimmick that Disney’s been selling us. There aren’t any human characters here (they don’t look like people), but there aren’t any real anythings here. It’s like a really overpriced videogame that we’re sitting in a theatre to watch, and it took me out of the experience a little bit. Somehow it didn’t feel like I was watching a movie. And it also didn’t feel like I was watching anything different from the original cartoon animated film either. Remakes are supposed to play around with what’s already been done, aren’t they? Why did they decide to do only a few tiny things different, then?
While talking to the Crow about how close this movie was to the original, he told me about Ghost in the Shell 2.0, and I can see how it’s basically got the same problem that this new Lion King has. He said he didn’t like the updated GITS and I don’t either. And I feel the same way about The Lion King. The only difference is that GITS 2.0 isn’t called a remake at all. It’s just an update.
It looks good. Of course it does. But it doesn’t feel right. It’s the same story done the same way and I’m not sure why I paid for this. All I needed to do was watch the original and I’d have a lot more fun. And on that line of thinking: Seth Rogen really can’t sing. I’m sitting here scratching my head wondering why only James Earl “Darth Vader” Jones (Mufasa) is the only actor to come back for the remake. The original had a really good cast and I’m pretty sure I’m correct when I say everyone in the original sounded much better than the voice actors in this version. If you’re inviting him back and just doing the same thing over again, why not just polish up the original movie?
And it was while scratching my head over that question that I think I found the real problem I have with this film. This isn’t a remake. This isn’t a movie made for a new audience. This isn’t supposed to be bringing new people in to the Disney “classics”. This movie is a cash grab.
I might be sounding quite harsh but that’s exactly what this Lion King is. It’s not breaking any new ground. Apart from the new videogame graphics, it doesn’t even look or sound like it’s even trying. It’s just hitting the 90s kids (like me) in the feels and getting us to separate ourselves from our cash by going over the same steps one more time. This just feels lazy from the top down. The only thing that’s a real gem here are the hundreds or thousands of artists who worked on getting the graphics so picture-perfect. It doesn’t work when the animals start talking, but it looks so… tough to have gotten done. I’m going to give the artists a 10/10. That score isn’t for the directors or anything, it’s for the actual artists who probably didn’t get paid enough for all the good work that they did.
But as far as The Lion King goes as a movie, you’re better off watching the original. This isn’t bad, but it feels more right to watch the 1994 version because it had all the cues this version just lifted and put into its own c.v.
I feel really conflicted about all of what I’ve just said, but I’m sticking to my thoughts until I see it later on home media. If I change my mind then, I’ll be sure to let you know. But until next time,
THE SPOTTED NUTCRACKER: 4/10
THE SWAN(!): TBA/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: NA/10
THE CROW: NA/10
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(I’m still waiting for my picture!)