In this era of remakes, reboots, and rehashes, I was curious to see how they’ve remade one of my most watched Disney films. This time, I’m taking a look at The Lion King, a remake of the 1994 film of the same name.
This review will be brief, as it relies on having seen the original film.
You’ll see why below.
SPOILERS for The Lion King below (the original film).
The Lion King Review
PLOT – A young lion cub, Simba (JD McCrary) is born. His uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejofor), wants to usurp the throne, so he murders Simba’s father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), and exiles Simba, blaming him. Simba, now an adult (Donald Glover), now must go back to defeat Scar and take his place as king.
This film is essentially the same as the original, to a T.
Everything is the same, just the graphics and voice actors are changed to reflect more modern times, and yet, it’s perfect. Disney didn’t change anything too much or water it down, it kept to the same script and plot beats, changed the tone, and actually succeeded is being a great movie. I loved it from start to finish…
But after some reflection…
One of my issues with the film is that it lengthens scenes that really don’t need it. The mouse that almost gets eaten by Scar gets a minute or so of running around before Scar appears, and we see more of the wildlife interaction with the main characters, but it doesn’t do much for the overall plot, it’s just needless padding.
As far as meaningful additions go, there is a subplot about the hyenas versus the lions that goes nowhere (yet is most likely resolved) by the end of the film, yet this adds more character to Shenzi (Florence Kasumba), who was comic relief in the original. There is also an added scene of Nala (Beyoncé) escaping the Pride Lands, and while that gives some more context and more of the Pride Lands under Scar’s rule (which is what I was hoping this film would expand upon), it could excised without affecting the story.
My PLOT RATING is 3/5. It’s the same thing as before, yet with some additions. While they do help the film, it’s not enough to make an impact.
Simba as a cub and adult: Both JD McCreary and Donald Glover both service their roles well, but don’t really stand out as a main lead. I’m personally happy about this change, as I am not that huge of a Matthew Broderick fan.
Scar: He’s creepier in this. More melancholy and gloom to his character than the flamboyance of the original. He also allies with the hyenas in this one during the film, rather than before.
Mufasa – Still James Earl Jones, and still awesome, yet he sounds older. It softens the blow of his death some, but it’s nice to hear him again.
Timon and Pumbaa: By far the standouts of the film. Played by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, both have a lot of funny moments. I was surprised with how good Seth Rogen was at singing, and I was pleased with Eichner. He was a pretty worthy replacement for Nathan Lane.
The Hyenas: (Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric André) are serviceable, they get a few jokes, and Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) is actually threatening, with a grudge against Nala this time around.
Nala, Zazu, Sarabi: These characters are the same as the original. Nala is more headstrong, Zazu (John Oliver) is more “John Oliver”, yet interchangeable with Rowan Atkinson, and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) provides a serviceable performance.
My CHARACTERS RATING is a 4/5. The casting is comparable to the original, with some updates. It works well, and I’m interested to see how it holds up over time.
SCRIPT – The script is the same as before. There is some expanded dialogue, particularly about the Circle of Life. Timon and Pumbaa suggest a straight line instead, and that makes for a good debate. Yes, life can be like that, but we all should be connected with each other more instead of on one path. The new dialogue works well, but there are some key lines and moments missing.
My SCRIPT RATING is 4/5. A direct copy of the original, yet missing some key moments, though it includes new dialogue, so this balances out.
EFFECTS – Beautiful backgrounds, character designs, and lighting. My only problem is that, until the end, the film is green, tan, and grey. I wish the songs used lighting, and some red, at least. Have the songs adhere to the original, take some artistic license, and make the look of the film be vibrant and stand out. Songs that are supposed to take place at night, take place in the day, to make a glaring example.
My EFFECTS RATING is 4/5. Beautiful, but needs to use more of the color palatte.
MUSIC – Hans Zimmer returns, reintroducing the original score back in full force. The songs are the same, yet sung by other actors. Something is missing from some of them though. The “magic” doesn’t capture as before, and it’s hard to pin down why. There are new songs near the end of the film, but they service the Beyoncé music tie-in and don’t do much to the plot.
My MUSIC RATING is 3/5. The revised score is excellent, and the songs are good, but something is missing. New songs are introduced but don’t have any effect.
The Lion King
FINAL RATING: 90/100
FINAL THOUGHTS – The Lion King is a serviceable remake. Beautiful graphics, a great cast, the same plot and script, and the same awesome score with the same lyrical pieces.
If you’ve seen the original, you’re not missing much, but if you have a pride of kids, they’re sure to love this.