Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The Lion King 2019 Review






Like many 90s born kids, one of my favourite ever films growing up was the Lion King. It was one of our most over-played and excessively worn VHS tapes alongside Matilda and The Jungle Book. It tugged on everyone's heartstrings and gave us some of our best loved Disney characters and soundtracks, soundtracks that we knew every single word to and still do. The 1994 version was undoubtedly a classic that has stood the test of time. And so, like many, I was initially apprehensive about a re-make, particularly when the sequels and go-between films weren't particularly memorable. 

However, Disney have upped the ante where re-makes are concerned in recent years and have already given some of our much-loved classics a revamp, successfully. Alice in Wonderland for one, seemed to garner massive popularity and although it's subjective and a matter of personal preference, I am a big fan of their other re-makes such as The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and although not explicitly a re-make, Mary Poppins Returns. All of these were my childhood favourites and so that provides a fair assessment of their standing.

Obviously Disney have been at the height of discussion recently after having cast for their Little Mermaid remake (on which I currently have no opinion and shall reserve judgement until having seen it) but all of the above films had also been widely discussed and scrutinised before their release. And honestly, whilst it's quite easy to get deep and analytical about Disney movies, these films still provide such entertainment and pleasure for audiences. So, with all that in mind, off I popped to see the Lion King 2019 re-make.

The usual jubilation surged as the castle intro began and the sparkly logo appeared and straight after, just like the original, the Circle of Life began. This opening straight away seemed identical to the 1994 version and then on in, much of the film was too. Which in one respect is brilliant because if too much had altered, it really would have faced scrutiny and it would lose the nostalgic aspect which is what we all buy into in the first place. I think the photo-realistic technology is fascinating, much like when I watched Jungle Book, also directed by Jon Favreau, I was in awe of that. But whilst it is fascinating, there were points about it that I disliked, which I'll touch on later.

From a casting point of view, I think it was good and I think the voices fit perfectly with the characters and particularly loved that James Earl Jones reprised his role. I think Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner did Timon and Pumbaa really well also and provided some of the personality we know and love from the first. I was also happy that all the well-known songs were included. But, I wasn't really a fan of the alteration of Be Prepared which was one of my faves from the original but, you win some, you lose some.

One thing I thought about after having watched it was that the characters possibly had less character this time round. This could purely be because we have the original so well-etched into our minds but I think that the photo-realistic imaging, whilst fascinating, takes that over-exaggerated caricature element away and so makes the characters much less expressive.  I also think some of the cast of the original were just so perfect for those characters such as Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons and Rowan Atkinson. For those reasons, I think it lacked some of what the original had, but at the same time it's rarely known that a re-make would be better than the original anyway.

Overall, the 2019 Lion King satisfied a deeply nostalgic itch and provided positives and negatives, which are hard to put into perspective when the original is so iconic and moulded into our brains. It's definitely worth a watch if you're a fan but as most would predict, nothing will ever beat the 90s version. 



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