The Lion King Movie Review

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The Lion King remake was not one that I thought we would be seeing in the theatre, but my son was begging to see it and I’m so glad we did! It was playing at our local drive-in theatre, so we got to do two bucket list things at once. Disney is in a “remake everything” phase currently, and The Lion King was next on the hit list. For those of us who aren’t as “Eeyore” about it, I am super excited about it. I’m loving seeing new interpretations of stories and characters that I love so dearly now that technology has allowed for it. Did they need to remake it? Absolutely (I’m with Elisia on this one)Absolutely not. (Clearly, speaking for herself. I am ABOUT it.) And that really came through to me, here. The same director who did The Jungle Book remake, Jon Favreau (who will forever and always be Pete from “Friends” to me) directed this movie. I can see why they had him do it, as he was able to bring The Jungle Book to life using technology and a warehouse. But because we were already “wowed” by that movie visually, this one was basically the same thing, just African savanna instead of jungle. By now you know that we rarely agree on anything. So it won’t be surprising to find out that we are in totally different camps on this movie too. I think there absolutely is a place for this movie. Keep reading and find out why we disagree.

The biggest concerns I had about this movie were that they wouldn’t bring anything fresh to it (which was true) and that it wasn’t necessary (again true). Wasn’t necessary? Lies! I was also concerned about some of the voice casting… but more about that later.

In my opinion, the purpose of the remake in this case was to bring a 2D cartoon to life. The technology is similar to The Jungle Book, but for me it brought the savanna to life in a new and exciting way. There are several scenes that took my breath away because of how real the background looked. It was truly stunning. Frame for frame it was almost exactly the same as the cartoon, so I hear why some (*cough* Erica) might feel like there was no point. While that is a valid thought, I am so glad they invested in this remake. 

As an artist I have some reservations about this one. In the Instagram artist community people are upset at the fact they did a frame-by-frame remake for one reason: they did not compensate the original storyboard artists for the work they did. The other recent Disney remakes only used small bits that were similar framing to the originals but with their own spin.

It has left me torn. I won’t be seeing this one in the theatre (well… partially because living in Terrace I don’t have the same access to first-run movies; but mostly for the reason stated above).

“The Lion King” Profile

Before we break the movie down for you, here are each of our faves from the original.

Danielle:

  • Character: Timon
  • Song: “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
  • Quote: “What do you want me to do? Dress in drag and do the hula?” – Timon
  • Voice Cast: Donald Glover as Simba

Elisia: 

  • Character: Shenzi
  • Song: “Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama”
  • Quote:
    • Banzai: Yeah, you know, like Mufasa.
    • Scar: I see.
    • Banzai: Now that’s power.
    • Shenzi: Tell me about it. I just hear that name and I shudder.
    • Banzai: Mufasa!
    • Shenzi: Ooooh! Do it again!
    • Banzai: Mufasa!
    • Shenzi: Ooooh!
    • Banzai: Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa!
    • Shenzi: Ooooh! [breaks into laughter]
    • Shenzi: And it tingles me!
    • Scar: I’m *surrounded* by idiots.
  • Voice Cast: Donald Glover as Simba

Heidi:

  • Character: Zazu
  • Song: “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
  • Quote: “Remember who you are.” – Mufasa
  • Voice Cast: Seth Rogen as Pumbaa

Erica: 

  • Character: Young Nala 
  • Song: “Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama” (there’s just something about that beginning)
  • Quote: “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.” – Rafiki
  • Voice Cast: James Earl Jones as Mufasa

The Plot

If you’ve seen the original, then you know what’s going to happen. It took me about half the movie to really settle into the fact that incredibly realistic animals were “talking”. It just felt weird. Most of the story is almost exactly the same. We are talking frame for frame almost identical for the first half of the movie at least. I did appreciate that other than the talking animals, they kept things realistic. If you think seeing Mufasa’s death is hard in animation, it’s most certainly harder seeing it this way. They also really prolonged it. I agree that the scene was really hard to watch. But I disagree that they prolonged it. It was exactly how I remembered it in the cartoon. It was just so graphic and realistic, which again is why I believe this remake was necessary. I also think watching it as a parent (I don’t think I’ve seen it since I had kids) was SO much more real for me. As a parent there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for your kids. This scene was just that much more gut wrenching for me.

Anything that was unrealistic in the original movie (a stack of animals in “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” for instance) I thought they did a good job of in the remake. This was one thing we can agree on. I really appreciated that it wasn’t gimmicky or cheesy in that way. Getting used to talking animals was hard enough! 

Character Development

The most pleasant surprise for me was Zazu. He was absolutely hysterical. Yes! I love Zazu in both versions; they were able to maintain his essence yet make it fresh. Pumbaa and Timon were ok… I think there was quite a bit of ad-libbing. It was fine. Agree to disagree on this one. I looooooved Timon and Pumba. They were different, which is really the only thing that added a fresh vibe to the movie. Scar was certainly more vindictive and premeditated in his evil, which I found a bit unnecessary. I found him to be amazingly accurate to who I think Scar would be. He lost the throne to his brother in a challenge (not in the movie, but this is how we find him when we first meet him). Of course he was vindictive and evil. As a male being outcast from a pride that also means he would not be eating since the lionesses do the hunting. Which is why you see him trying to catch the mouse. The hyenas weren’t my favourite… I really do like them in the animated version. Once again, I disagree (family dinners are a treat)… I think giving them different personalities was fun, and just like Timon and Pumbaa, it added a new flare. Rafiki was underwhelming. I’ll give you this one. While I do love the way they animated him and brought him to life, he was not memorable. Nothing was really added to his character and it did lay a little flat to me.

Without spoiling anything, if you are going into this movie expecting Timon and Pumbaa’s “big scenes”, or scenes you remember being your favourite from the original, just remember that it will be different. Sometimes managing expectations can help us from having a negative experience and make room for what’s new and different. 

The Musical Numbers

Let’s talk music. That is what drew me to see the new one in the first place. I have the Disney Hits playlist on Apple Music, and they always add the newest movie soundtracks. The kids laugh hysterically at the new “Hakuna Matata”, this song is what made my son desperate to see the new one. It kind of helps listening to the music beforehand. I think it gives a great foundation for the tone of the movie. I really liked the music except for one song. I may get hate for this, but Beyonce was just WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY over the top for me. I just don’t like the over-singing. She completely ruined “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” for me. If you like Beyonce, you’ll love this version. I was pleasantly surprised by it. She used a nice gentle tone, and grew in intensity, which I appreciated. NOPE! Too much scooping, and just unpleasant to listen to. That’s one song I won’t be adding to my iTunes.

They changed Scar’s song “Be Prepared” quite a lot… I didn’t really care for it, but I don’t love that song to begin with. Personally, I was happy that they changed it. I also am not a huge fan of the song and it is less of a main event in the live action. Works for me!

Some of the songs were changed a bit; but “Circle of Life”, and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” were great. They were similar enough to represent the original, but different enough to keep it exciting. And “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was really clever and fantastic.

I haven’t yet had the chance to see the movie; however, I have seen the stage production a couple of times. Each time I have been emotionally overcome by the music. The power of the African voices swell over the audience, and it just moves me. I’m sure my husband is probably rolling his eyes at me, but it truly is inexplicable. 

Easter Eggs

One of our favourite things to do when watching the new movies is to try and catch as many Easter Eggs as we can (hidden little Disney gems).

These are what we found in The Lion King:

– The Tree (where Rafiki lives) is definitely an “ode” to the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom; even down to the fireflies. Loved that!

– There was a scene with ants carrying leaves; I’m sure that was a nod to “A Bug’s Life.” This was also in the cartoon, but it was definitely a nod to “A Bug’s Life” as well. Especially because the tree they went up looked like the tree in Animal Kingdom, and the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show is under the Tree of Life in the park. Very clever. 

– I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but there was a “Beauty and the Beast” reference that was just so great! You’ll know it when you see it. Possibly my favourite part of the movie. 

– There were a LOT of references to the Broadway show. The song “He Lives In You” is from there, as well as Rafiki’s shaman-like character. The voice actor for Young Nala originally played Nala on Broadway in 2014.

 

In conclusion, I have neutral feelings about this movie. For me, it wasn’t my favourite of all the remakes but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Visually, it was very stunning. It was entertaining, and they didn’t butcher it. I also don’t think it was necessary, but I paid money to go see it, so there is that! And our theatre clapped at the end… I always really like that. My kids absolutely LOVED it so I have no regrets.

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At the theatre they had this clever cart with Lion King items. Well played, Cineplex!

Did you catch any other Easter Eggs? What did you think of the movie?
We’d love to hear from you!

Have a magical day!
Erica, Heidi, Elisia, and Danielle

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