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Film Review: The Lion King (2019)

The Lion King (2019) is a live-action adaptation of the classic 1994 animated film, but completely done using CGI. Directed by Jon Favreau, who also directed the live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, this adaptation is faithful to the source material. This film has a stellar voice cast, including performances from James Earl Jones, Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner. Based on the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a family tragedy causes Simba to grow up quickly and try to run from his past, unaware of the disaster that is happening at home.

The Lion King (2019) – source: Walt Disney Studios
This feel unnecessary to point out, but the visuals are absolutely stunning. This is a true showcase of what we can achieve with technology at this point, and this is a masterclass in CGI. Aside from one or two stylistic choices that I was not a fan of, this is just beautiful to watch. You can take a screenshot of basically any frame in this film and it would made for a stunning backdrop or print. There is one shot in the film that is not CGI, but you cannot tell in the slightest what that one shot is, because the whole thing looks incredibly well done.
What made this particular incarnation of The Lion King great for me was Timon and Pumbaa, voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen. Not only did they get extra material, with their character’s lines deviating from the original the most, but their voice acting was also the strongest out of everyone in the film. There is one joke near the end of the film (if you’ve seen it, you know what I am referring to) that had me crying with laughter because I could not believe that they were actually making a moment quite like that work in that situation. It was incredible, and worth the ticket price just for that moment alone.
This also goes without saying, but the music here is superb. I am shocked that there is no major new song here, to allow it for nomination at the Oscars, but the soundtrack is so strong that it does not need any new songs. Everyone does a great job with the songs here, particularly on Can You Feel The Love Tonight?, where Beyonce and Donald Glover get a chance to showcase their vocals. 
The Lion King (2019) – source: Walt Disney Studios
Unfortunately, I was shocked to see how much of a shot-for-shot this felt to me. With extra screen time for this film, I found it disappointing that the only new content that arose from this adaptation ended up going to Timon and Pumbaa and the hyenas. Yes, many people consider the source material to be strong, but I would have liked more development on several characters. I feel even less connected to Nala in this film, particularly the older Nala, especially when Disney have done well giving further development to supporting characters in their live-action adaptations.
Other people have also pointed this out, but this film does not have the emotional punches like the original did. I am not talking exclusively about the look of the animals, because I wouldn’t have wanted them to look and act more like the original film. What I am meaning is the development of the characters didn’t leave me caring for them as much as I have done beforehand, particularly with the death of Mufasa. Obviously this is a huge moment, but it never feels as dark or horrifying as it did in the animated classic, because I never truly cared for Mufasa or Simba in this version of the story. That also only got worse throughout the film, as I started to care less about every character.
One reason the emotion did not hit me here is because I did not buy the voice acting of most of the cast in this film. Out of the entire voice cast, there were maybe four voices that I liked overall. Young Nala, Zazu, Timon and Pumbaa worked for me, but that was it. James Earl Jones did not capture the magic that he originally had as Mufasa, and Donald Glover and Beyonce sounded like they never even saw the final product of the film, because they just sounded like Donald Glover and Beyonce to me. There was just a spark that did not connect with me with the voice acting, and the moving mouths of the lifelike creatures felt distracting and off-putting to watch for me.
The Lion King (2019) – source: Walt Disney Studios
This is not as film as bad as other critics are saying. However, I am questioning the reason for this adaptation aside from showcasing the beautiful CGI and capabilities of animation at this time and day. The story is obviously strong, but that comes from a source that many people declare as the best of it’s genre. Whilst this film reminds you of how great the original of The Lion King is, it doesn’t feel great itself.

Have you seen The Lion King? Did you love this film like the general audience is, or are you with the critics in calling this unnecessary and lacking of magic? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a discussion.

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