"The Lion King" (2019) Movie Review
When I walked out of the theater, the first thought that came to my head was: "How am I going to write this review?" The film was so close to the original that it's almost unnecessary to review and nearly impossible to write a comparison/contrast article. So, I decided to make this a short review and go over the things that this film did better and the the one small nitpick I have.
First, let's start with the look. The CGI was absolutely astounding. Most of the time, it was difficult to discern real from CGI. Favreau had actual animalistic mannerisms included in the film, such as the animals flicking their ears to get the flies to go away, the lioness cleaning her cubs, and acknowledgement from Mufasa himself that death is a part of life that fuels more life. That brings me to my next positive. I loved that the meaning and the deep life lessons were carried over into this film. It didn't compromise any values, but rather expanded on them. Third, the remake was more considerate of the audience. Think back to the animation. When Mufasa (spoiler in case you live under a rock) is killed, the scene with Simba trying to understand that his father was dead seemed to drag out. It was like Disney was stabbing us in our hearts and twisting the dagger as long as they could. The remake handled the scene much better. It was more direct and, while it was still heavily emotional and upsetting, it didn't last longer than it needed to. Fourth, the voice-work was almost perfection. James Earl Jones (returning as Mufasa) had just as much of an impact this time around as he did 25 years ago. JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph were the perfect young Simba and Nala. They brought excitement and exuberance to their performances, which just made them all the more likable. Adult Simba and Nala were voiced by Donald Glover and Beyonce respectively. Both of them put everything they had into the characters. Huge marks to Beyonce's new song Spirit, which is featured in the film. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen were absolutely amazing as Timon and Pumbaa. They were just as much fun as Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella were in the original. Keegan-Michael Key was actually tolerable as one of the hyenas. Maybe voice-work is his true calling? That brings me to my one nitpick: Scar.
Scar was voiced by the remarkable Chiwetel Ejiofer. I personally felt that Chiwetel, while he did a good job, wasn't the right fit for Scar. Chiwetel's talent lies with characters that are morally conflicted. For example, Mordo in Doctor Strange and Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. Scar, however, is manipulative and cunning. He's all bad through and through and has no problem doing what he has to do to get his way. That's what made Jeremy Irons so perfect for Scar back in '94. Jeremy has a history of playing villains that are 100% corrupt and he has the voice for manipulation. Simon from Die Hard with a Vengeance for example.
In conclusion, don't listen to how most of these snooty critics are reacting. They're saying that there's a lack of emotion and more glam than substance. They're 100% WRONG. I had tears streaming down my face in several parts and a huge smile any time Timon and Pumbaa were on-screen. Go see this film for yourself. I hope you enjoy the new and the nostalgia as much as I did. I give the film a 3 out of 4.
© 2019 Nathan Jasper