2019 has certainly been the year for Disney to make 90’s kids excited! In Disney’s latest live action, the animals of 1994 The Lion King are brought to life. This classic was a favorite for both of us growing up, so needless to say we have been pretty excited for this one. This week we were invited to an advanced screening of the film, but unfortunately Andrew couldn’t attend due to a work conflict. Julie decided to still go check it out anyway (sorry Andrew!). How does this reinvented version compare to the iconic film of our childhood? Read on to see what she thought…
Official Film Synopsis:
Disney’s “The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau (“The Jungle Book”), journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
Staying true to the classic story, director Jon Favreau utilizes pioneering filmmaking techniques to bring the iconic characters to the big screen in a whole new way. Featuring the voices of Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon, Disney’s “The Lion King” opens in U.S. theaters on July 19, 2019.
I remember back in the 90’s the theatrical preview for The Lion King was the entire “Circle of Life” sequence. That scene still gives me goosebumps and this movie opened in the same manner with just as much wow-factor as the animated version. And from that point I was transported into a story I loved but surrounded by furry creatures and mesmerizing landscapes. While we normally make sure to do spoiler free reviews, the funny thing with this film is there is nothing to really spoil as the movie is almost completely identical to the original. There were so many lines I caught myself reciting along with the character, and I noticed if one had been slightly altered. But even though it was super familiar and nostalgic I still found myself engaged waiting to see what would happen next.
The production skills involved with this film were mind blowing. The beautiful African landscapes and details looked so freakin’ authentic. I love seeing animals in real life and so many moments had me convinced I was watching a documentary instead of a completely CGI world. Baby Simba reminded me of my own kitties and it was amazing to watch all of the different animals act as they would in real life. The one draw back to this was real animals can never have as much expression as the animated version. With the sad Mufasa scene (which everyone should already know) the voice of young Simba sounded in tears, but the realistic lion just appeared to be talking. I still felt moved and misty eyed but I do wonder do I have nostalgic feelings from the old movie spilling over into this one? Would I have felt as emotional if this new version were the only film that existed?
I have always loved the original soundtrack, and it certainly set the stage for one of my favorite Broadway shows. This new version keeps the songs and adds a few new ones (though they are more background and end credit type songs vs new scenes). It did seem a little tougher to execute some musical numbers without colorful animation (like “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” for example). But the singing quality was exceptional and I enjoyed the new voices and small changes. The only exception to this was “Be Prepared” was a let down. The landscape is grander and scarier than the cartoon and I was expecting a big dramatic number, but it just wasn’t so.
I think the characters were all very well cast. Young Simba and Nala were adorable. The new Timon and Pumbaa seemed perfectly suited for their roles and brought some great comedic relief. There were even a few slight twists on some of the old joke scenes. I found that I missed Jeremy Irons as Scar, he had such a dramatic villainous flair. This Scar was mean and manipulative but in a more depressed way. It made me glad James Earl Jones reprised his role as Mufasa. Other supporting characters seemed to play their roles well also.
Overall I found the live action of The Lion King really impressive and I came out fo the theater very satisfied. It reminded me of how other Disney stories get translated into stage shows. You already know the story, characters, and music but it is still unique to see it in a different way. The stage here was authentic landscapes and realistic animal actors. While I would have liked maybe a little twist and some newness, at the same time I may have been more disappointed if the changes weren’t worthy standing next to the original story. While this isn’t something I would probably purchase a copy of to own (I would most likely just watch the animated classic instead) I do think it is absolutely worth seeing in the theaters. It is gorgeous and a great balance of nostalgia and newness. My inner Lion King loving 90’s kid was transported back to seeing this in theaters for the first time all over again. And if you want the ultimate viewing experience splurge on the fancy theater. I really do think the IMAX screen and Dolby surround sound version I saw made for an even more impressive experience.
The movie is best for: original Lion King lovers wanting to see a new take on a well loved film, and to see the amazing level of realistic animation
Official movie website: https://disney.com/lionking