The Lion King (2019). CGI remake of Disney’s 1994 animated hit

Film still of The Lion King (2019) with two lions on a rocky outcrop looking onto the horizon.
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Drama

star rating 3 out of 5 worth watching

Film review, by Jason Day, of The Lion King (2019), Disney’s CGI remake of their 1994 animated blockbuster about a young male lion who, after self-imposed exile, must assume the role of king. Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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Synopsis

When his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is killed by his cruel, ostracised brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), young lion cub Simba (JD McCrary) is made to believe it was, by proxy, his fault and runs away.

Growing up in self-imposed exile, he reaches adulthood as a respectful and thoughtful young lion (Donald Glover) who is best friends with quip-laden meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and flatulent warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen).

His childhood friend Nala (Beyonce) accidentally finds him during her travels for help after Scar and his greedy hyena army decimate their land of food and water. Simba has to decide whether to stay in idyllic isolation or defend his home and family.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

Image of the poster for The Lion King (2019).
Poster: Walt Disney Pictures.

Disney’s original, animated The Lion King, on which critical appraisal and box office dollars were heaped by the tonne, is a global phenomenon.

Since that first movie (total worldwide box office takings: $968,483,777) the format has spawned a sequel film (Simba’s Pride), a soundtrack, a musical first staged in 1997 and which is still going strong today (estimated worldwide box office gross by 2017: $8.1bn), a video game and umpteen other assorted toys, books and other merchandise.

So, it’s fair to say there is an audience out there hungry for a remake, even if Disney switch from animation cells to CGI and digital wizardry.

I’m not among that audience for I haven’t experienced any of the above, not even the production that started it all (cinematic sacrilege, I know). I had no pressing desire to see the remake, other than it being the only new movie release this weekend at my local multiplex.

I’m glad I did see it as it very good…and also that I did not have anything to compare it against.

This Lion King roars loudly in his own right helped by the beautiful voice – both speaking and singing – of performer Donald Glover that adds lashings of emotion and stirring as befits this outwardly naive but inwardly strong character. My only reservation about him is that the sequences ‘in the wilderness’ with Timon and Pumbaa seem disposable, or irrelevant.

In the original film, these characters were voiced – so I can tell from the snippets and trailer I have managed to see – respectively by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as a raucous, rollicking, film-stealing duo. Their sidelining in this film allows the CGI and more serious tone to take precedence (and that too jokey, anachronistic style of animation that has always annoyed me is kept to a minimum).

With the story, although the lion characters still retain the natural history naturalness of their real-world peers (male lions rule the roost; female lions do all the work and take their lead from him; it’s a cat eat cat world), back in 1994, the ‘man in charge’ narrative might not have irked too many people, but in 2019 it really does seem outmoded.

Yes, it’s no different than in your common or garden Shakespeare play, but Shakespeare lends itself so well to many adaptations and views…so why can’t the women in The Lion King be more active?

At least it keeps the franchise and narrative firmly on a safe track for more box office kerching…after more than $10bn, you have to watch your dollars wisely.

Jones returns in the same role and his unforgettable, honeyed, powerful voice still retains its potency. Rubbing well alongside him is Brit Ejiofor whose silky tones fill the CGI bulk of the reptilian Scar.

Find out more by visiting the official Disney website.

Cast & credits

Director: Jon Favreau. 1 hr 58 mins/118 mins. Walt Disney Pictures/Fairview Entertainment. (PG)

Producers: Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, Jeffrey Silver.
Writer: Jeff Nathanson.
Camera: Caleb Deschanel.
Music: Hans Zimmer.
Sets: James Chinlund.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, John Oliver, Alfre Woodard, Penny Johnson Jerald, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Kani.

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