The Lion (Rema)King

July 22, 2019, 8:36 p.m. | By Yuri Kim | 4 years, 11 months ago

Disney’s latest live-action movie depicts realistic animals for an unrealistic direction

Following the trend of Disney’s previous live-action remakes, viewers expected The Lion King to include amazing music, breathtaking scenery and childhood nostalgia. With an incredibly talented cast voicing the film and singing the popular soundtrack, it was almost certain that the film would excel in all three aspects. Unfortunately, the film only succeeded in these three aspects. 

The movie follows lion cub Simba (JD McCrary) as he grows into an adult (Donald Glover) and becomes next in line to rule the Pride Lands of Africa following his father, King Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasa’s brother and previous heir to the throne, tries anything he can to get his power back— deception, threats, and even murder. 

The Lion King remake features realistic animals. (Courtesy of Disney)

The beginning of the movie immediately hooks viewers with its iconic chant of “Nants ingonyama” (here comes a lion), which is accompanied by beautiful illustrations of the African landscape and the cast belting out “The Circle of Life.” The familiar scene of Rafiki (John Kani) lifting Simba into the air on Pride Rock captivates the audience and ends the introduction of the film.

Excitement turns to disenchantment as soon as the animals begin to talk. It’s impossible not to laugh at how awkward the realistic animals look as they speak and act like humans.What do nostalgia, music and scenery mean when the attention is on a bizarre hyena opening and closing its mouth? The movie attempts to simultaneously portray the animals as authentic and human-like, leading to inconsistent behavior. There is a mixture of actual growling and poor imitations of animal noises made by the voice actors.

Replacing the animated characters with photo-realistic computer-generated imagery (CGI) animals also makes it difficult to read facial expressions. While artists can draw exaggerated emotions on cartoon animals, animals like birds and warthogs usually don’t express themselves with human emotions. Through most of the torment he faces, Simba seems to pull a straight face. The scenes rely on only the actors’ voices to relay their characters' emotions. Though the characters are well-developed and the actors convey emotions well, the CGI dulls any emotion.

Despite the shortcomings of the on-screen characters, the music and illustrations entertain and impress throughout the movie. The cast brings the film to life through playful and upbeat songs, including classics like “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata.” The background music adds emotion and intensity to moments of conflict and increases suspense before important events in the story. Every frame is drawn with great attention to detail, from each water droplet on a spiderweb to the vast expanse of the night sky.

The Lion King is well produced and reminiscent of the classic. The familiar storyline is enhanced by skillful artists and voice actors. Regardless, Disney’s decision to personify realistic-looking animals in the first place is questionable.

 The Lion King is rated PG for sequences of violence, peril and some thematic elements and is playing at Regal Majestic & IMAX in Silver Spring and ArcLight Cinemas in Bethesda.

Last updated: July 22, 2019, 8:37 p.m.

Tags: Disney The Lion King movie review

Yuri Kim. Hey, I'm Yuri and I'm a senior :) When I'm not on SCO, I'm listening to music, overusing emojis, and/or working on another strange arts-and-crafts project. More »

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