Ever since I could comprehend the slightest amount of English, I was glued to the television screen filled with prancing antelopes, a friendship between lions and warthogs from alternate universes, and mesmerized by Elton John's and Tim Rice's soundtrack.
As a Gen-Z, die-hard Lion King (and Disney) fan, I was ecstatic to hear of Jon Favreau's release of a modern, live-action adaptation of the 1994 classic. I watched all of the trailers and waited for many months to see how good this version would fare. I ran to the theaters with my Hakuna Matata t-shirt on and a bucket of overflowing, buttery popcorn pumped for a fantastic film, but that's where the excitement ended for the most part.
The beginning of the movie did almost complete justice to the original, animated version: the (new) Circle of Life song plays in the background as antelopes, elephants and giraffes rise to go meet their king. Favreau did a decent job in displaying the animals' movements and providing significant detail to a classic introduction. Rafiki makes his way to Pride Rock and meets Mufasa, after Zazu bows down. Simba comes out and Rafiki's ritual is the exact same, which I personally appreciated. One thing that I wish was present is the emotions in the faces of the characters. Yes, there can be live-action movies starring animals, but The Jungle Book was still successful because of the emotions of the characters came through.
As far as the soundtrack for the movie, I truly enjoyed how most of the movie's original songs were adapted to new voices and to reflect the continuity of the movie's themes even in the present day. The voices of young Simba and Nala for "I Can't Wait to be King" felt almost like the original in terms of their vocal range, and that truly warmed my heart. I loved Beyonce's presence in the movie as well not just because she is legendary and is an accomplished artist, but because she added new meaning to Nala's role in the current movie, where Nala fights back Scar and initiates a movement to turn the fate of Pride Rock around. The cast's diversity gave new meaning to a classic and that was refreshing.
One aspect of the movie that I appreciated was that James Earl Jones continued to be the voice of Mufasa, the father of Simba, a honorable leader and an essential character to the entire plot. Jones' voice brought positive memories for me, because I was able to witness the progression of my life from when I was young until my current self as a sophomore in college. The Lion King has been such a motivational movie for me throughout my childhood because it taught me resilience, learning from one's mistakes and how it is important to live life to the fullest. More importantly, each character's role and their relationship with Shakespeare's Hamlet taught me the importance of family and pride. As cliche as this sounds, I truly believe that The Lion King influenced my moral perspective of the world around me and how I feel towards individuals. Life is about moving past obstacles and ensuring well-thought decisions for the future.
Overall, The Lion King's newer adaptation is successful in my eyes, and I thoroughly recommend it for everyone to watch.