Let’s be honest, this film was never going to replace the 1994 classic, but The Lion King gets the basics right, so at least we can say it’s not a total flop. However, I can’t shake the feeling that this remake is completely unnecessary.
Why mess with perfection? Apart from the incredible technical achievements used to bring the story’s characters to life, there’s nothing particularly special about Disney’s remake. I didn’t love Aladdin, but it at least updated the original story in fresh and creative ways (by giving Jasmine more to do for example). The Lion King is completely content with rehashing the same beats; that would be fine if the emotion was sustained, but the CGI is incapable of tugging at your heartstrings the way the cartoon did. The infamous Mufasa death scene broke me as a kid, and I have no doubt it’s still equally powerful if I were to rewatch it today, but the remake’s version is just soulless. The same goes for the iconic musical numbers which have lost their zest (“I just can’t wait to be king” is just bland here), and logic (Why would you set “Can you feel the love tonight?” during the daytime?). It doesn’t help that CGI animals singing just looks awkward as their lips can never really match the lyrics.
While it does sound like I’m hating on the film, it must be said that it gets quite a few things right. Timone and Pumpa for example are absolutely exceptional. Both Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan give astounding voice performances that completely live up to the iconic characters. Elsewhere, Beyonce and Donald Glover are fine as Nala and Simba respectively, but it’s James Earl Jones (who reprises his Mufasa from the original) that really stands out. Having him voice the character again is just a fantastic tribute to the film’s legacy.
While perfectly entertaining, The Lion King remake fails to make a case for why it should even exist. Watch it for the nostalgia, but keep your expectations in check.