The Lion King (2019) is breathtaking. Its revolutionary technical achievements, along with the classic story, make for quite the cinematic experience. It may be easy to forget, but every frame of The Lion King (except one, according to director Jon Favreau) was created on computers. Let that sink in.
I’ve heard the complaints. Is it the same movie as its 1994 counterpart? For the most part. Do the animal faces lack emotion? Perhaps, but it’s a photo-realistic interpretation. This may be surprising to some, but animals don’t smile or emote. The little the animals did show, I felt in their eyes, especially in young Simba.
When understanding the movie in context of Disney’s goal of photo-realism, I find very little to fault. Visually breathtaking, great renditions of the classic songs (yes, even “Be Prepared”), and they didn’t change the story… don’t fix what’s not broken.
It’s important to remember that animated movies are always over the top. Vibrant colors, animals showing extreme emotion, and dialogue that is not what would normally be heard. That would not fit into this interpretation.
I loved the voice acting overall, even my biggest concern going in- Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Scar. While this version is toned down, I found him to be quite threatening. His disdain for Mufasa, and especially Simba, was felt in his calm, yet menacing tone. My only real issue was the voice acting of Donald Glover. I was excited when his casting was announced, but was disappointed in his lack of vocal expression. As the main protagonist, energy was needed to emphasize the urgency of what was at hand, yet Glover’s performance fell flat, especially when next to Beyoncé (Nala), Billy Eichner (Timon), and Seth Rogen (Pumbaa).
Overall, the 2019 version of The Lion King is a welcome addition to the recent Disney remakes. If you’re okay watching the 1994 version of the movie with a new aesthetic, I think you will really enjoy the 2019 edition. If you want a new movie, I can see you being disappointed. The good news is that the flawless classic is always available to rewatch.