Growing up in the 1990s, Disney movies were a big part of our lives. If we ever hear anyone confess that they have never seen ‘The Lion King’
, we would not hesitate to call blasphemy.
The 1994 animated film is a classic that every child and adult must see, so much so that it still ranks among the highest-grossing Disney movies ever.
Now, to say that 2019 is the year of Disney live-action remakes would be an understatement. Following ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Aladdin’, ‘The Lion King’ is the next release 25 years after the original.
This remake is directed by Jon Favreau, who is also the man behind the 2016 live-action remake of ‘The Jungle Book’.
Let’s be clear: when we say live-action, we’re talking about computer-generated imagery (CGI). So Favreau and team obviously were not directing a bunch of wild animals, not to mention actual lions, on set.
That would be quite terrifying, no?
Having said that, we don't want to start a debate on whether or not ‘The Lion King’ should be called a “live-action” movie in this case. So let’s just enjoy the movie for what it is.
But we do want to talk more about it because we were invited to an early screening of ‘The Lion King’, so here’s what we love about the remake.
It is a visual masterpiece
Favreau’s ‘The Jungle Book’ won the Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards a few years back. We believe that ‘The Lion King’ may also stand a good chance next year because the work is another level up.
The director apparently confirmed that only one shot out of the entire movie was filmed live at some plains in South Africa. The rest was basically created using the magic of technology.
We don’t even know where to begin to describe the breathtaking visuals that are in ‘The Lion King’.
Each animal, insect, leaf, tree, even down to the water droplets, all look so realistic, it felt like we were watching a documentary about the wild.
We found it almost too hard hard to believe that none of the lions are real!
Pay extra attention to the lion’s mane because you will be amazed by how the visual effects team managed to animate the intricate details, even the fur on the animals.
We also need to give an honourary mention to baby Simba because he is just too adorable! Can we please take him home and uhh... pray that he never grows up?
This remake no doubt brought an elevated sense of awe to the whole picture and story, you would wish that this particular animal kingdom at Pride Rock existed in real life.
The voice cast is impeccable
While we miss the nostalgic voices of the original 1994 cast, the class of 2019 brings together another star-studded group that makes it hard to decide which version is better.
Donald Glover voices Simba, while JD McCrary plays little Simba. Beyoncé voices Nala, while Shahadi Wright Joseph plays the young Nala. Both little and grown-up Simba and Nala were cast perfectly, especially Beyoncé.
We hardly see Queen Bey out of her element in music, but she is able to shine as the strong-willed lioness even when her voice alone is all we get in the film.
There is also Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar with a voice that will send shivers down your spine. He should take up more villain roles!
We absolutely love Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Billy Eichner as Timon and John Oliver as Zazu. This trio put the funny in ‘The Lion King’. Who would have thought that we could love Timon and Pumbaa more after this remake?
Last but not least, we cannot miss out the great James Earl Jones who returned to his original role as Mufasa. He still sounds as majestic as ever and his words continue to ring in our minds long after we left the cinema.
Same same but different
It is no secret that this live-action remake tells the same story as the original animated classic. Frame to frame, beat to beat, line to line, everything is almost the same – almost
, being the active word here.
In case you had forgotten the original story of ‘The Lion King’, here’s a quick recap, which is pretty much the same as the new remake.
Young lion Simba is the future king of Pride Rock, a vast land ruled by his parents Mufasa and Sarabi. One day, the little cub is caught in the middle of a wildebeest stampede. After saving his son, Mufasa dies a tragic death.
Simba’s uncle Scar tricks him into thinking that he is responsible for his father’s death. He runs away in guilt and befriends Timon the meercat and Pumbaa the warthog. He ends up growing up in the jungle with his new friends.
Years later, he is reunited with his childhood friend Nala and they fall in love. She urges him to return to Pride Rock and challenge Scar to take back his rightful place as king.
To be honest, we were initially surprised when we heard a lot of the dialogue that maintained the same script from 25 years ago. Some may think that it is unnecessary to make a new movie if everything, besides the visuals, is the same.
Despite the familiar story, we love how ‘The Lion King’ remake brought us back to our childhood. The nostalgia is real in this movie. We are also amazed by how the clever scripting from over two decades ago still resonates today!
Having said that, the live-action version is not 100% the exact same movie (that would be redundant, wouldn’t it?). The team made it a point to insert enough new content to keep it fresh, including some new scenes with Nala and the hilarious interjections by Timon and Pumbaa.
The remake is about 30 minutes longer than the original, so it did feel like we were watching a whole new movie.
The music is a trip down memory lane
Unlike some other Disney live-action remakes (we won't name names), ‘The Lion King’ rounded up a group of talents who can actually sing, which we made us heave a sigh of relief because nobody
is allowed to butcher our childhood favourites.
The original score by Tim Rice and Elton John were remade with a more cultural sound this time around, including the Oscar-nominated “Circle of Life”, “Hakuna Matata” and the winning song “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”.
We couldn’t help but sing along to the familiar tunes throughout the movie, although hearing them come out of the mouths of animals that looked so authentic did feel a tad bit strange.
Other than the original songs from 1994, this remake also has new music – “Spirit” by Beyoncé and “Never Too Late” by Elton John.
In fact, Beyoncé will also be releasing a new album inspired by the film, titled ‘The Lion King: The Gift’. So look out for that on 19 July!
There is one miss
We did mention time and time again that ‘The Lion King’ remake brings back all the memories. Yes, the visual effects throughout the film are to die for.
However, that may have contributed to this slight miss.
The animals look almost too real to express any emotions on their faces because, well, have you ever seen a sad lion? If anything, this movie may have proven that lions just cannot emote.
The lack of emotions in the live-action movie slightly takes away the relatability of the characters. Some of the audience may even feel a bit removed from the story because of this.
Of course, if we compare it to the cartoon animation, the characters were a lot more exaggerated there. On the other hand, making the live-action (read: CGI) characters too over-the-top would seem odd.
Nevertheless, the voices behind these characters did help in the emotional department. So kudos to the casting!
In a nutshell, ‘The Lion King’ is a must-watch movie, both the animated classic and especially this live-action remake. After 25 years, we trust that this 2019 release will bring in a whole new generation of fans to our beloved lions and friends.
It is visually-stunning, funny and a musical medley. We highly recommend watching the movie in the biggest screen you can find in town.
Also, do bring along a packet of tissue too because one can never be too prepared to watch Mufasa die, again.
‘The Lion King’ is out in cinemas nationwide on 17 July.