"The Lion King" is far from being one of the worst in Disney's current line of remakes to their catalogue of animated classics and I would even go as far as to say that on paper, it may have even been the best idea of the lot. Contrary to it commonly being referred to as a "Live Action" remake among the public, the film, by virtue of what it is, is the only remake of this line of remakes to animated features that is itself animated.
Despite the photorealistic aesthetic applied to the movie, "The Lion King (2019)" is still an animated film featuring an approach to production and art direction that hasn't been attempted with animated movies before and the potential applications of that techniques seem to have escaped the notice of those seemingly willing to blow it off as just another cash grab. The movie isn't just a technical marvel; it's a technical marvel that looks like no other animated movie on the market.
Director Jon Favreau's gift for highlighting narrative intimacy among the execution of clearly readable and understandable character arcs takes advantage of the art style applied to this familiar narrative to create several instances of experiencing well known scenes in strikingly visual new ways.
The point of "The Lion King (2019)" isn't to supplant the movie serving as its source material but to provide a tech demo for new techniques that can be utilized to really diversify the landscape of animation in the future. In attempting to reach such ambitions however, the final product resulting in Favreau's take on Simba's hero's journey is perhaps the poster child for why this trend of remaking these films should come to a close sooner rather than later.
In tackling the "Jungle Book," Favreau clearly benefited from having carte blanche to reinterpret a narrative modern generations knew of but had very little direct recognition for. For better or worse, "The Lion King" is seen as the crown jewel of the Disney Renaissance, being one of the most lauded animated films of all time and the highest grossing traditionally animated film ever.
Despite any hard evidence on what may have happened during production, I find it hard to believe that the sacred cash cow legacy of "The Lion King (2019)'s" namesake didn't have some sort of crushing influence on the shooting and final cut of the movie released into theaters right now.
Favreau is clearly willing to try new things; the photorealistic art direction fundamentally alters the ways in which character's can express themselves and every once in a while, creative decisions compensate accordingly in addition to breathing new life into the narrative.
Whether intentional or not, things like watching Scar stare into infinity as Simba asks him to imagine life where he'll have to take orders from his bratty nephew are darkly comedic gold, and certain aspects of the film like John Oliver's slightly more scattershot take on Zazu to compensate for the laughably dopey look of real hornbills along with a more stoner-esque mellow interpretation of Timon and Pumba and Hyena's that actually pull off feeling more sinister than comedic all could have gone miles towards a movie with a unique sense of identity, regardless of its actual origins.
Unfortunately, whatever potential was there, kind of gets drowned out by default to the story map of the original film, which becomes so beat for beat of a remake, massive chunks of the movie almost don't even feel like they belong to the same production.
Just as characterization takes a life of its own, dialogue will shift back to the outline of a story that doesn't even try to be a little less predictable and the worst offender comes in the form of just about every single musical number as they crop up.
They're poorly shot and stage, the singers often break tempo with the rhythm and not only was I laughing harder at "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" than any actual jokes within the movie but the presence of Donald Glover and Beyonce in it really do little to sell the notion that the producers wanted to sell a story over a new contemporary yet more than mildly inferior soundtrack.
"The Lion King (2019)" continues to display Disney's dedication to keeping their products above a certain minimal degree of polish but also stands as a solid example of what happens when you want a visionary to reinterpret something that you're fostering an untouchable atmosphere surrounding.
It's a technological achievement that I can easily appreciate as such, while hoping the tech gets used to its well deserved staggering effect in an original project, hopefully one in a similar vein to this movie, as a fan of xenofiction.
I also wish, however, that the demo that I was pitched was a home run worthy of dropping immediate down payments on. The idea, passion, and artistry are all there. The execution just isn't.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.