The Lion King
review by Bobby Blakey
There is no denying that Disney’s 1994 animated feature The Lion King is one of the most popular classics in their film library. With their recent successful run of bringing a lot of their animated classics to live action features it was only a matter of time before The Lion King was brought to the forefront. This latest version features the voice talents of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Billy Eichner, John Kani. Alfre Woodard, Beyonce, Eric Andre, John Oliver, and James Earl Jones returning to the role of Mufasa with director Jon Favreau at the helm. Could this bring something new to the classic animated film or will it fail to rule it’s kingdom?
The Lion King follows a lion cub crown prince who is tricked by a treacherous uncle into thinking he caused his father's death and flees into exile in despair, only to learn in adulthood his identity and his responsibilities. Outside of Pete’s Dragon, Dumbo and The Jungle Book I haven’t been a big fan of these new Disney films, but I am also not a big fan of the animated versions either. I do love the original Lion King and loved the idea of seeing Favreau bring what he did with Jungle Book to this story. There are a lot of people bagging on elements of it, but I for one really enjoyed it. The visuals are stunning and work on every level and yes I mean with them showing emotion too. Do we get the over the top animated faces of course not, but instead you get the mannerisms of the actual animals and it still works. Those saying it loses its emotions are clearly just stuck on the visuals of a cartoon and not really paying attention to the animals themselves.
I was surprised how well the musical numbers work since they are dealing with a live action vibe, but they do. No they don’t dance like people with silly backdrops and dance numbers, but why would they. This film is doing something different with the film while maintaining its legacy and paying homage to it. There are some new elements that I was really happy to see that
fleshed out more of adult Nala’s story making her a more complete character while not changing her much. James Earl Jones brings his iconic voice back to Mufasa and while playing the same character in the same movie plays it up a bit differently that I thought worked great. The rest of the cast all do a great job with their roles with Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner stealing the show as Timon and Pumba.
The opening is insanely matched to the original and beautiful to watch, but once it get started it did take a bit for me to buy into the real looking animals talking. I had the same issue with The Jungle Book, but as it moves forward it just melds together and works great. Sure there are some elements that fall flat in transition, but as a whole it worked for me. I have to admit this is a much darker film with seeing the real looking fights and death. These animals are not doing karate or just slapping each other around, they are grabbing them in their jaws and throwing, clawing and often times brutal. I was so happy to see them try to keep as close to the animal behaviors as possible while still injecting the magic of nonsense from the animated feature.
I get that this film won’t work for everyone, but will say that the audience I saw it with sang, cheered and seemed to love it as a whole including my daughter who is a hardcore fan of the film as well as a Vet tech working with animals and a history of working for the zoo. Seeing her love it as much as anyone and impressed with the animal behaviors made it all the better. Remember that its ok for this movie to exist alongside the original as it takes nothing away from it. Enjoy one or them both and just be glad that they exist at all.
In addition to the film this release features bonus content fit for a king including commentary, music video, featurettes on bringing this film to life and so much more. Return to pride rock and grab your copy of The Lion King available now on 4K Ultr Digital and Movie Anywhere and then on 4K Ultra, Blu-ray and DVD on October 22nd from Disney Home Entertainment.