If you haven't been keeping up, Disney has been having a great track run recently. They just released a slew of plans for the future of Marvel at the San Diego Comic-Con this past week, “Avengers: Endgame" just surpassed “Avatar" as the highest-grossing film of all time, they're still rolling in billions of dollars from the release of “Aladdin", and—oh yeah—“The Lion King" remake just became the biggest opening weekend for an animated film, surpassing last summer's "Incredibles 2".
“The Lion King" has made monumental success since it's opening release, raking in almost 200 million dollars in less than a week. Unfortunately, its success is not matching up to the quality of the film.
The hyper-realistic animals are absolutely stunning at first glance and you'll catch yourself wondering if they found trained animals to use instead of CGI. However, when the dialogue and singing starts, you can't help but feel that something just isn't right. It's like watching a National Geographic documentary with some voice-overs from A-list celebrities and it feels awkward the entire time.
"The Lion King" is supposed to be a highly emotional coming of age story and despite it staying pretty close to the original script, it was like watching something completely different.
The most glaringly obvious problem with this film is that if you're not planning on making the characters anthropomorphic, you're not getting an emotional story arc and that's an issue when the entire plot is basically Shakespearean. The animals are not expressive, and although I can understand the argument that real animals don't express emotions the same we do, the movie is difficult to watch when scenes are delivered with high panic, angry, happy, what-have-you voices and the facial reactions are the same throughout.
Which is to say that it's the same blank expression with a mouth that just moves up and down the entire time. Any movie would be hard to get through if it was designed like that. Aslan from "The Chronicles of Narnia", a movie made in 2005, had more expression and is exactly the same animal as Simba. Disney had the capability to do the same to these lions, but for some reason took another path.
But there's more than just the intense CGI that made the film fall flat. It's a shame that with arguably the most extraordinary cast a Disney adaptation has seen that it felt subpar in comparison to all the remakes.
For instance, the new track "Spirit" from Beyoncé felt oddly placed and more of a market test to promote the song rather than a superior music choice to the one that was included in the original. Rafiki is almost entirely erased from the plot and, yes, they took out the most important scene and watered down the moment where it should have been. Some of the song choices (ahem, "Be Prepared") were not as epic or as nicely choreographed as they could have been and lyrics were completely erased.
And some parts were just unnecessarily weird. The way Simba's fur travels to Rafiki is incredibly surreal because it starts out being blown in the wind, then eaten by a giraffe, and then literally pooped out of by the giraffe, gets rolled around by a dung beetle for a little bit, until a sandstorm carries it to Rafiki (I can kind of understand the circle of life reference but the scene was almost two minutes long and unneeded). Also, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is played during the daytime when the song title literally has the word "tonight" in it, although that problem is mediocre in comparison to everything else.
In other words, the production just feels lazy. Although the movie is meant for kids and kids will certainly enjoy what they see, the point is that Disney has stopped caring about what they're making and are whipping out as many remakes as they can as a quick (and very easy) cash grab because it builds off of our nostalgia.
Although the film had good moments with its jokes, you should ~be prepared~ for disappointment.