Following Dumbo and Aladdin earlier this year, The Lion King is the third Disney classic to get the live-action treatment in 2019. The visual effects team truly outdid themselves with this one. It’s like watching real lions fighting real hyenas. Not only does it look authentic when they are walking around Pride Rock, but it is completely convincing that these animals could actually talk!
The Lion King hits a major mark by bringing back voice legend James Earl Jones to play Mufasa. James Earl Jones is royalty through and through. Anyone else voicing the king of the beasts would have been just plain wrong. It is unfortunate that his counterpart in the original, Jeremy Irons, did not reprise his role as Scar. Chiwetel Ejiofor does a fine job for new comers, but those who grew up with Irons will notice something is lacking. He never quite goes “Full-Scar”.
The Lion King is probably my most watched Disney cartoon. I know it like the back of my hand. This version is near identical. From the musical transitions, to the set designs, to the script. The dialog is so close to the original that it is distracting when it is slightly different or delivered “incorrectly”. Visually, it is great to see a story I love come to life in such a masterful way. Unfortunately, that realism comes with a price. Efforts to keep the animals looking like animals, limits the range of emotions the character can show. Previously powerful scenes are muted by the lack of expressions a lion can display and still look like a lion.
I love The Lion King story, and if this is your first experience with Simba, Nala, and Mufasa you will not be disappointed. Those raised on the cartoon version might have a different take. Perhaps over the years this one will grow on me, but I was let down that it didn’t even try to create something new.