Review by Patrick G.
When Disney started making live action movies of much loved classics it was only a matter of time before The Lion King got the live action treatment. Having directed the 2016 live action remake of the Jungle Book, Jon Favreau ups the ante even further by taking the helm of a live action movie which features no human characters at all. The Lion King also comes with the extra difficulty of being one of the most popular Disney movies of all time with the 1994 original grossing over $900 million at the global box office.
You would think that most directors would tremble at such a challenge but Favreau delivers a gorgeous movie with breathtaking cinematography. The live action setting grounds the story deeply in our world (more on that later) showcasing the stunning beauty but also the glaring fragility of the African plains. The scenary in itself is akin to the phenomenal Disney Nature pictures and I was genuinely in awe of what was being shown on screen. Each scene highlights the magnificent surroundings of The Pride Lands and is a visual delight.
Disney stays true to form to the source material whilst fleshing out certain characters. Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, benefits from more screentime and we get to see more of the father son bond he shares with Simba. It was always a pet peeve of mine how obnoxious Simba is in the original which made him not so likeable to me. This character trait is still present in the remake, but the added Mufasa presence helps to make Simba’s transformation into a worthy ruler more believable.
The voice acting cast reads like an A-List party invitation and each and every one of them put in a solid performance. As expected Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) steal the show with the comic relief but an honourable mention goes to John Oliver as Zazu. I was completely blown away by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Scar. Ejiofor brings a meancing presence to the character which was an absolute joy to behold.
The cinematography is stunning, the characters are played to perfection, the music does not dissapoint, everything seems perfect, which brings me to the only niggle I have with the movie personally. The CGI is visually amazing for pretty much the entire movie. The characters move majestically through each scene. It is a beautiful picutre. I personally just had some moments when it was quite jarring that these were wild animals, who looked like real genuine animals but were talking? The fact is in our world animals don’t talk so sometimes I felt it was hard to really connect to the characters. I mean yes we have all seen movies about toys or monsters or emotions that can talk but the fact that the setting is our world where animals do not talk (or do they?) – it felt at times a bit visually strange for me – but hey this is The Lion King what did I expect?
The Lion King arrives at a time when those of us who are old enough to remember growing up with the original are adults now. Disney shows love and care for the franchise all the while understanding what made the original so popular 25 years ago. Fans will enjoy the retelling of an absolute classic and even if The Lion King is not high up on your favorites list, the cinematography is enough to make this worthy of your time. Hakuna Matata everyone the Lion King does not dissapoint!
The Lion King is in cinemas on July 17 in France and July 19 in the UK and Ireland.