Disney’s latest remake of one of their animated classics, “The Lion King,” offers nothing more than a retreaded trip down the uncanny valley.
From the opening iconic scene, 2019’s “The Lion King” is nearly a shot-for-shot retelling of the 1994 original. Calling the new film a “live-action” remake isn’t accurate, all the animals are near photo-realistic computer animated beings. However, with deep seeded nostalgia for the original film, this form of animation fails to capture the life and charm of the original.
Offering stunning visuals and mind-blowing animated effects, “The Lion King” succeeds as a pure work of technical progress. Director Jon Favreau isn’t taking the original film and making something of his own, rather just updating the original. Feeling like it only exists because it can, this remake only puts an unfamiliar filter over a familiar story.
While some environments and nature shots are undeniably beautiful, not every scene translates well to the different animation style. The grand and fantastical elements present in the original aren't transferred over well to the remake.“The Lion King” just looks better with colorful and cartoonish animation rather than as an uncanny version of “Planet Earth.” The character’s faces don’t move as much on their realistic counterparts, draining much of the emotion and personality from the film. Dramatic moments in the story fail to reach the same emotional peaks, due to the sometimes off-putting animation translation.
Hearing a new generation of voice actors and classic songs redone keeps the film interesting, but not enough to update or replace the original work. The musical numbers translate poorly to the new animations style. The animals appear emotionless while singing, removing much of the joy from these classic songs. Removing a lot of the cartoon elements in favor of a more realistic adaption is just an unnecessary move made due to Disney’s current cash-in on the remake trend.
While the remake doesn’t make for a completely disappointing theater trip, it fails to achieve any significant merit on its own. Emotionally, the film hits the same beats as the original. Everything feels just like it did in 1994, just slightly less impactful. If you’ve seen the old “The Lion King,” you’ve seen the new one too. It’s hard to imagine many who loved the original to prefer the remake.
Without much that’s new, this film at best offers a retelling of a classic story for a new generation — a chance for kids in 2019 to experience a cultural phenomenon they may otherwise wouldn’t.