Lion King Review

The King Has Returned


Lion King

Chuck Sipps, Arts and Life Editor

Disney has once again forayed into the live-action remakes; although, this time with less emphasis on live-action. ‘The Lion King’ has the appearance of a nature documentary, and it is a visually stunning showcase of technology. The film is an ambitious and rewarding experience and is undoubtedly the best of Disney’s live-action remakes to date. 

You have to applaud director John Favreau’s vision and commitment to crafting a world full of photorealistic animals. Gone is the color and vibrancy of the cartoon, instead replaced with a visual fidelity that makes one feel as if you are indeed a fly on the proverbial wall in the Serengeti. The world and the creatures that call it home have a realness to them. During the opening song “Circle of Life” there were a few awkward moments of Uncanny Valley, the idea that the more realistic a piece of CGI looks the more awkward it appears, but after that, I didn’t really notice any issues. 

Timon (Billy Eichner), Pumbaa (Seth Rogan), and Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are the true show stealers. Timon and Pumbaa are the comedic heart of the film, and whenever they are on-screen magic happens. Scar, while beautifully portrayed by Jeremy Irons in the original, is scarier here than ever and with added touches to his backstory, he is a far more complicated villain. While none of the actors feel out of place, I was a little disappointed with Beyonce’s Nala, Donald Glover’s Simba, and James Earl Jones’ Mufasa. Beyonce and Glover were serviceable, but underwhelming considering the talent. James Earl Jones just sounds tired, much as he did when he returned as the voice of Darth Vader in ‘Rogue One.’ While it is understandable, the man is 88 years old, I couldn’t help but compare Jones’ latest turn as Mufasa to his original run in the role and found it lacking in comparison.

Another aspect that returns from the original are the songs, all of which successfully make the transition to live-action. While not the same as the originals, they each hold their own and I found myself humming and singing along in the theater. Glover and Beyonce’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, is the only song to definitively surpass the original movie versions, though Elton John’s version still holds the crown at number one. While it was a bit odd that a song with tonight in the title was actually sung during the day it doesn’t diminish the moment.

If you’re able to separate yourself from the nostalgia of youth, you might just be able to admit to yourself that 2019’s ‘Lion King’ is superior to the 1994 version. The character motivations are clearer, some of the muddier plot points have been corrected and the stunning visuals propel the remake beyond the original. The king has indeed returned and if it’s billion-dollar box office is anything to go by, his reign will be a long one indeed.  

I award the movie 1994 Potatoes on the Sipps Potato Scale.