Wait until you can stream it…
Despite being longer, this film feels like a shot-for-shot remake of the original film, with most of the dialogue being copy and pasted. Same film, new coating. Whilst this does bring some successes, this new look for The Lion King is ultimately a detriment.
The only major change that springs to mind is that this film is much more muted. Gone are the dazzling, crazy colours. The grand musical set pieces are much more grounded in reality, as tracking shots simply track the singing animals as the sing and walk to their destination. The film is also hyper-realistic. Everything looks as real as a David Attenborough documentary. It is impressive, truly. Technology has clearly come a long way. This brings the major drawback, and ultimately the film’s greatest limitation, and perhaps its downfall: the ability for the film to express emotion is greatly restricted. Lions cannot express emotion like humans, and where the original film would use colour and grand musical set pieces to express how a character is feeling, this film is held back by a much more grounded reality.
With regards to the representation of Scar, this does actually works. Jeremy Irons’ Scar was much more eccentric and over the top. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Scar is a much more shadowy presence. He is cold, calculating and cunning, always working at the corner of your eye. I really like both versions. Ejiofor does a fantastic job, and the muted nature of the film compliments his performance well. Scar’s emotionless face, the quieter, eerie score when he is on screen, and the darker lighting all complement each other to create a truly sinister and threatening presence on screen.
However, the grounded approach to filmmaking is a disservice to nearly every other character. Timon’s and Zazu’s jokes often fall flat because, whilst the vocal delivery is funny, the blank facial expressions of the characters stop the jokes feeling real. Comedy is all about the visual and the aural. This film snatches away the visual side of the comedy. Arguably one of the saddest moments in the original film- Mufasa’s death- does not move me in this version. Simba’s face, in the original, is free to express as a child would, and it makes Mufasa’s death heart-breaking. This new version cannot express Simba’s sadness and terror over losing his father simply because lions cannot express emotion like we do. We just get a blank, emotionless face that jars with a vocal delivery filled with grief. It just does not work, making the efforts of the excellent voice cast, consisting of such talents as Donald Glover as Simba, ultimately pointless. The hyper-realism of this movie allows for technically marvellous shots, but it takes away much of the original film’s heart and emotion.
This film is the Avatar of the Disney remakes. A technical achievement, yes, but one lacking in emotion. To extend the Avatar analogy further, this new version also lacks originality. The plot’s structure is not changed. The variance in dialogue between both movies is barely noticeable. The director, Jon Favreau, does not even make the effort to represent the familiar plot using new shots, from new angles and positions. As mentioned before, this film feels like a mostly shot-for-shot remake. Why remake the original if your intention is to take away from the original, without adding anything new?
The Lion King remake embraces the imagery of the “circle” of life- it is utterly pointless. Remake proves to be the wrong word to describe this movie, for that implies something new has been made. This is more of a digital remaster, to borrow a term from the gaming industry. Games from the PS2 era are often imported onto a PS4 disc with improved graphics. When done with games, there is at least some point for the consumer, for you may not have your old console anymore, and you are now being given an opportunity to play some of your old favourites all over again. I fail to see why this movie exists other than as a way of milking cash from a beloved property, or as a showcase of ground-breaking technology. Artistically, it only takes away from the original, and gives nothing back. Whilst the original was a roar capable of bringing in a stampede of devoted fans hailing it as a classic, the remaster is much quieter roar from the same lion, but much less powerful.