Breathtaking….also baby lions are too damn cute!
Stars: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner
Director: Jon Favreau
Synopsis: Young lion cub Simba is tricked, by his scheming uncle Scar, into thinking he caused the death of his father. After convincing Simba to flee into exile, Scar takes over as king of Pride Rock and rules in an evil and tyrannical way. Simba’s new life of carefree fun and freedom is brought to a halt when his past catches up to him and he must decide if he will turn and run or accept who he is and face it head on.
Opinion: So, the original animated film is my all-time favourite Disney film and one of my favourites in general but even so I was excited and eager to see how they would create this ‘live action’ version. Well now that I’ve seen it and have let it all soak in, I have decided the best way to break it down is to just state the things I did and didn’t like about it. So, without further ado….
The negatives (always best to start with the bad right): While it was kind of weird at first to hear all different voices compared to the original, except for Mufasa because James Earl Jones is boss, I got used to it pretty fast and honestly didn’t really have any issues with the characters and their portrayals…..except for Zazu (John Oliver). While the voice and execution were great, I just found the dialogue didn’t work. In the original he was a witty and fun character but, in this version, they have changed a lot of the script for him and where there were once punchy one liners there are now one liners that try hard but fall very short. I can’t really understand why they changed it so much when other characters still held on to a lot of their original script, it just didn’t make sense to me at all.
Other than that, there were probably only two other aspects that I didn’t really like. One was, on occasion, the vocal chemistry didn’t seem to work. For the most part it’s great but every now and then it feels like characters reciting lines alone and not having an actual conversation with someone else in a scene. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it made the characters just feel separate and strange instead of familiar like they are meant to be.
The last thing is kind of similar in a way except this time about the songs. They are all, for the most part, exactly the same as the originals which means yes you can totally sing along to them, but one or two of them while performed extremely well just felt flat or like were missing something. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what it was, but I think it has to do with the sensational animated presentation that went with the songs not being able to be transferred as effectively to a ‘real life’ performance.
But now for the good: And boy is there SO MUCH GOOD!! This film is absolutely incredible to watch, I literally found myself gasping at the opening sequence and how amazing and real it looked. And that just flowed the entire way through this film. I am in such awe of how they have created such a realistic and amazing film, I mean they look like real legit lions and hyenas and birds and so many other animals! And yet, for some crazy reason, seeing all these very realistic animals talking and behaving the way they do just seemed so normal. Like yes of course these lions would be chatting and laughing away like that in real life, I didn’t question it at any moment and that is the power of cinema.
So despite my one negative character mention, the rest of the cast/pride/pack are all really great with huge props to Timon (Billy Eichner) & Pumba (Seth Rogen) who are just so spot on and amazing and perfect. They had actually been the two I, for whatever reason, had been concerned about but I shouldn’t have been because they just get it so right.
But my huge shining star is Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He has been my favourite Disney villain for many years so I will admit I was curious to see how they were going to portray him in this live action. There isn’t the copious amounts of sass and sarcasm as I was hoping for but instead, they have provided a genuine ‘bad guy’. Oh boy he is so amazingly evil and bad and opposite to everything Mufasa and Simba represent, and it’s just absolutely reinforced him in the best villain position. Okay this next part has a kind of spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know specifics before seeing the movie. Because I love Scar, I of course love the song Be Prepared and the atmosphere it creates so was excited to see how they would present it in this version. Well, as I discovered, this is the song that they changed the most (and apparently they weren’t going to include it at all). I was all ready to mumble along with the lyrics but when it started, I was caught off guard. But before you think this is a bad thing, it’s actually an incredible change and performance and honestly creates the most amazingly sinister moment with Scar and the hyenas. I loved it so so much and Chiwetel Ejiofor honestly did an amazing job.
So, there are my key negatives and positives but as an overall opinion, I loved this movie! While it won’t ever be called my favourite and will never be able to topple the original of its stoop, it is a beautiful, fun and magic watch which is exactly what it needed to be for me.
Extra Bit: Like with most of the recent Disney re-makes, this is a whole lot of same same but different. The script and story have minor changes and tweaks throughout but the classic moments you remember and are hanging out for are pretty much all there…..just be sure to look out for that Meerkat & Warthog live bait performance, it’s there and it’s amazing!