Film Review: The Lion King

23 July 19

The pursuit of this hyper-realistic reimagining seems to be to create something convincing, but in a plot that surrounds lions and meerkats singing together in perfect harmony, audiences don’t want to be convinced, they want to be entertained…

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogan, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Running time: 118 mins

In the first few moments of the brand new The Lion King, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a screening of a new David Attenborough documentary. The hyperreal shots of the sunrise over the savanna, coupled with the goosebump-inducing sounds of Circle of Life make the opening scenes of this reimagining a truly awe-inducing watch. 

The brand new retelling, helmed by Iron Man and Jungle Book director Jon Favreau, comes 25 years after Disney’s 1994 cartoon classic. However, despite its modern visuals, the film’s sing-a-long Shakespearian story remains the same, following Simba from a carefree cub to the King of Pride Rock.

As one of the few returning leads, James Earl Jones stars once again as the voice of Simba’s father Mufasa, with all of his wisdom and prowess still intact. However, his fierce opponent and brother, Scar, voiced by Chitiwel Ejiofor, sadly fails to bring the level of flamboyancy that made him such a brilliant villain in the original. 

This is most apparent during a lacklustre version of Be Prepared, which has none of the fiery theatrics from the Disney classic. On top of this, his army of hyena henchman has been given an all too menacing makeover, making them more frightening than funny. 

The film is a near shot-for-shot remake of the original, adding only fillers that make no significant change to the plot

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that other characters also fall short in comparison to their predecessor’s, namely the older versions of Simba and Nala. Played by Donald Glover and Beyoncé, the characters end up serving as a distraction for anyone who is familiar with the megastar’s voices, taking the viewer away from the film’s central story.

Yet despite its missteps, the film’s comedic characters remain as entertaining as their cartoon counterparts, with Timon and Pumba, (Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen) taking centre stage. Their playful dialogue hits the nail on the head, boasting enough of a modern twist to make it original, without taking away the essence of the famous twosome.

When it comes to The Lion King’s visual effects, the photorealism although visually impressive, leaves many of the characters looking lifeless behind the eyes. The film’s beautiful depictions of the animal kingdom are without a doubt impressive, but lack the vibrancy and playfulness expressed in the original cartoon. 

Overall, the film is a near shot-for-shot remake of the original, adding only fillers that make no significant change to the plot. For the millennial audience, this makes it an enjoyable trip down memory lane, but its removal of some fan favourites like Pumba and Timon’s Hula make it fall short of its larger than life predecessor. 

Ultimately, the storytelling magic of the film still sparkles and thankfully the majority of the movie’s iconic soundtrack remains unchanged, meaning audiences who came purely for the 90’s nostalgia will leave feeling satisfied. However, with little positive changes made to this Disney classic, the question has to be asked, did they really need to fix something that wasn’t broken?

Did you know? Benedict Cumberbatch turned down the role of the voice of Scar 

The Lion King is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 1 August