In 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” Jeff Goldblum, playing Dr. Ian Malcolm, discusses the ethics of bringing dinosaurs back to life with John Hammond, the billionaire behind the creation of the park. He defiantly states to the billionaire, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” While watching the “live-action” (if it can even be considered that) revival of “The Lion King,” this line echoed in my head. Although animation technology has improved exponentially since the original “The Lion King” in 1994, I can’t help but think that some things are better left untouched. While I’m happy that a new generation of children will be introduced to this story, I can’t say that I am content with the product I watched on screen. Harkening back to the “Jurassic Park” quote, I believe that Disney was too focused on popularity and filling seats to consider whether or not they should’ve made this film.
This remake follows the same plot as the original, starting with Simba’s youth and his maturation, as he edges his way toward following in his father’s footsteps to become king. “The Lion King” (2019) directed by Jon Favreau, has a star-studded voice cast including Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, and John Oliver, just to name a few. Their voices complement the characters they play very well, especially Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen who play Timon and Pumba respectively. They were easily my favorite characters in the film, as they provided the majority of laughs during the movie in a sort of self-reflexive, meta style.
To be quite blunt, this movie felt rather flat. It was basically a shot for shot remake of the original and added absolutely nothing unique to a story that so many people grew up loving. No new songs, stories, or twists were added, which gave it all a very stale and familiar feeling. Earlier in the summer, Disney released a remake to the movie “Aladdin.” Although the remake to “Aladdin” wasn’t perfect, it at least tried to be something different while still telling a similar story that so many viewers cherish; “The Lion King” (2019) on the other hand simply made no effort to do so.
My main critique with “The Lion King” (2019), was also the movie’s greatest accomplishment, that being its animation. The animals on screen looked so hyper-realistic that at times I felt as though I was watching the nature-documentary series, “Planet Earth.” Seeing it in IMAX-3D only amplified this sort of photorealism of watching the animals on screen. Even though I recognize this as a major accomplishment in both film and animation technology, it was counterproductive to the story because it simply didn’t allow for the characters to express their emotions. What was so nice about the original was that because the animals were cartoons, we were able to clearly and easily read their emotions and reactions. However, in this 2019 remake, the characters look identical to real-life animals that are unable to emote, which made this movie feel rather empty and emotionless. There is no denying that the visuals in this film are not only remarkable, but simply quite beautiful, but to tell a story that is so filled with sentiment and to not have clear emotion from the characters is too big of a problem to overlook.
“The Lion King” (2019) had the largest ever opening weekend for a film released in July. This film will go on to make hundreds of millions of dollars more and I’m sure many children will be satisfied with what they see, but I still can’t help but feel disappointed in this movie. Going back to my “Jurassic Park” reference, I know it may be a bit of a stretch to compare Disney executives remaking a cartoon to the ethics of creating life, but I do believe, at least metaphorically speaking, that every movie has a life of its own. Each film affects people differently and can mean so much to an individual, that I worry that making something without paying attention to the sentimental effect it can have on a human is a major problem. Although I felt as though Disney missed the mark with this film, I still have hope and look forward to other live-action remakes they have slated such as “Mulan” and “The Little Mermaid,” which will be hitting theaters within the next few years.