Disney has been on a steady stream of remaking their old classics. Some turn out to be surprisingly good, while some can feel a little flat. Nevertheless, even with their shortcomings, they still deliver and pretty much faithful to their own original spin, with some modern additions here and there. Their latest flick, The Lion King, is no exception. I’d say, and I think there are many who don’t think so, it is pretty good. You just have to expect nothing when watching it.
The film follows the same premise as the original. The young Prince of Pride Lands Simba is the next in line to be the King, but his uncle Scar is unhappy to the news and plots to take the throne for himself, aided by an unruly, constantly hungry pack of hyenas. Along the way, Simba learns in hard ways what it means to be the king and end his uncle’s tyrannical reign.
This film, from my own standpoint, is the most faithful adaption of all Disney classics thus far. In fact, it is shot-by-shot similar to the original, especially during the Circle of Life intro scene, albeit in a very stunning display. The visual effect is absolutely breathtaking to boot. It makes me wonder whether they are actually real life animals or CGI. Not to mention the setting. Kinda makes you wonder if Pride Lands really do exist somewhere in Africa. There was a tiny tidbit that said one of the scenes in the film is actually live action, but I couldn’t tell. Mightt have to look up for more information about that one.
Now the downside is, while being so realistic, most of the characters can look and feel way too real for their own good. It’s a little difficult to see their expression, and so, in order for them to emote, the characters tend to rely on their body language, which is probably a bit of a problem. Timon on the other hand, is quite expressive. It helps since he (and real life meerkats in general) is apparently cute. The filmmakers also seem to have spent a worthy amount of effort to animate Adult Simba since he seems to be the most expressive character in the film. On the other hand, the lionesses also look exactly the same to each other, which is… unsurprising since they are based on real lionesses. As a result, it may be a little difficult to differentiate Adult Nala with Sarabi, although the latter does have a distinguishing feature; the markings on her legs.
As for characters, most of them stay true to their original counterpart, with some new depth. Zazu, this time, is upgraded from a bumbling majordomo to a more courageous one. Most notably seen during the elephant graveyard seen and later in the final act, and I truly appreciate it. Mufasa, played by James Earl Jones, is still as majestic as ever. Timon and Pumbaa remain to be the hilarious comedic relief of the film. Nala, while remain the same as her original counterpart, has been given more screentime and we get to even see her motive in leaving the Pride Lands, in contrast to her suddenly showing up in Timon and Pumbaa’s jungle home. The hyenas here are far more ruthless, competent, and less idiot than they are in the original, even Shenzi takes up the role as the leader of the pack more seriously and has a tense dynamic with Nala. In fact, she is the one who is taken seriously while Kamari and Azizi (Banzai and Ed in the original), are the only two who joke around. Their jokes, however, while can be relatable, can fall a little bit flat.
I should mention that my appreciation goes to Scar, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. True, the original Scar is undisputedly one of the most cunning and glorious Disney villains, but this new portrayal is pretty awesome to me. While we know he’s a villain, given that the first introduction after the title screen is him, this Scar is actually more cunning and ruthless. For one, it can be very unclear whether he genuinely cares about Simba or not, because he really plays the cool uncle trait very good here and Scar is always all about deception and cunning. In the original, he is very clearly evil, even the look gives him away, and can act pretty fake. But in this one, Young Simba actually shows some degree of admiration to him. Scar may hate Simba for ruining his chance to be king, but he hides it pretty well, better than the original, if I may say. Now you may disagree with me, but I think this Scar is very cool. It’s a little bit shame that his infamous song
“Be Prepared” is heavily shortened. In general, to me, this Scar is more ruthless and deceptive instead of pretentious.
As for the story, I can’t tell much other than it follows the exact storyline and musical numbers. It does have a few additional scenes and changes, such as what I previously mentioned, Nala has an extra scene, and Sarabi has more interaction with Scar, with bits adapted from the Broadway theatrical version. We are also given more scenes showing Simba’s life with Timon and Pumbaa. Additionally, one of the things that I like about this film is that Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba are not the only ones living in their jungle home, which I always find a little bit lonely and strange, given how peaceful it is, a perfect home for many animals especially for herbivores. And as a result, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is much more chipper, fun, and happy with their new neighbors joining in on the song (thanks for breaking the tune, Nala). On another note, some bits can feel a little bit rushed, but thankfully, it’s not by much. In a sense, this modern version is much more serious and intense while the original is more tragic and epic. As for the music, no one can ever doubt Hans Zimmer, since he nails it even better. And we also have Lebo M once again to thank for.
To sum it up, I still enjoy this new version. I think it’s best to watch this film without comparing it bit by bit to the original, but I know how difficult it can be. To be fair, both are produced by Disney, albeit in different medium. We know what we’re gonna have when we heard live action version of
The Lion King, so we should have known what to expect. But as I always say, expecting too much only leads to disappointment, most of the time.
For people who haven’t even watched the original version, then they’re in for a treat. I guess it’s much better to watch this modern take first then the original to get a sense of it, so they can’t compare it yet while watching this one. But I understand those who have grown up with the original, as I do too. Still, I think it’s still better than what most people give credit for.