by Julian Spivey
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor & Beyonce
Runtime: 1 hour & 58 minutes
Philip Price, who has written most of the movie reviews on this very site since it began 10 years ago, began his review of “Toy Story 4” last month by saying, “’Toy Story 4’ is necessary.’ And, then he went on to explain why and how a movie that’s the fourth in a series still had something worthwhile to say.
“Is this necessary?” is a question that instantly popped into my head upon seeing Jon Favreau’s live-action, computer-generated remake of Disney’s 1994 animated classic “The Lion King.” I hate that it’s a relevant question to ask about cinema today, but with all of the remakes and sequels and prequels and what have you it simply is worth asking.
Is “The Lion King” (2019) necessary?
“The Lion King” is the second live-action adaptation of a classic Disney animated movie I’ve seen this summer, after watching “Aladdin” in May. I enjoyed “Aladdin” with it’s actual acting and some changes I recognized – and it certainly helped that I hadn’t seen the animated original in more than 25 years. It probably wasn’t necessary either. I haven’t seen the live-action Disney remakes of “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book” (also directed by Favreau) or “Beauty and the Beast,” but they didn’t seem necessary either. Before “The Lion King” a trailer was shown for Disney’s upcoming film in this series of live-action remakes “Mulan,” to be released in March of next year. It also does not seem necessary.
But, again, this is just a part of cinema in 2019 and it has been for years now and it seems it will be for the foreseeable future.
The movies are merely easy ways for Disney, who already had all of the money in the world, to make even more money. I realize this is cynical of me, but it’s just the plain truth.
My issue with this is art should feel necessary. The original ‘Lion King’ from 1994, the very first Disney movie I ever saw in a theater, was necessary. It was a terrific story in a long line of terrific Disney stories. Nothing about that has changed for the 2019 remake. It’s still a terrific story, because it’s the same story – almost completely scene for scene and even word for word. It’s lovely to see interactions between actual realistic looking lions, but ultimately you could save your money and pop in your DVD or Blu-ray copy (or maybe even that VHS you’ve had since you were a child).
So, “The Lion King” (2019) isn’t necessary. But, is it entertaining?
“The Lion King” is very likely my favorite Disney movie – granted I’m not the Disney enthusiast many are – so anything that is that original story is going to be entertaining and enjoyable for me. So, even though I knew the whole time this was essentially something I didn’t need and there were better things I could’ve spent my hard-earned money on I didn’t dwell on that for one second during the viewing.
There are pros to this live-action movie.
Like I previously said, it’s cute to see some of these animals as more realistic looking. It really ramps up the cute factor. Also, the voice acting by the entire cast, including Donald Glover (adult Simba), Beyoncé (adult Nala), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), John Oliver (Zazu), Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), Billy Eichner (Timon) and others was enjoyable. The performances by Rogen and Eichner particularly were entertaining. The only issue is the dialogue is almost so word-for-word that Disney literally could’ve used the tapes from the original and built the images around it.
It’s also more heartbreaking to see the death of Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones as he was in the original, in the live-action version because it’s just more life-life. If you can watch this scene and it not at least make your eyes water I have some worries about you.
I would never tell someone to not go see a movie that I fully admit I enjoyed watching. If you’re a fan of the animated ‘Lion King,’ you’re more than likely going to be a fan of this new version. I doubt you’ll like it better. Just know going in pretty much everything you’re going to see is something you’ve already seen before.