This year’s “The Lion King,” directed by Jon Favreau is a “live-action” or photo-realistic, computer animation remake of the original 1994 film, “The Lion King.” Jon Favreau, who directed the critically acclaimed, “The Jungle Book,” is the perfect person to helm the remake. The film features an all-star cast with Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, and James Earl Jones returning to voice Mufasa. Elton John and Tim Rice also return to work on the music. Last, but not least, Hans Zimmer returns to compose the score.
For better or worse, the new “The Lion King” is a line-for-line and shot-for-shot adaptation of the first film. Young Simba flees from his kingdom after the death of his father, Mufasa. Years later, Simba, now as an adult, returns to his kingdom, to challenge his uncle, Scar, for the throne of Pride Rock to restore order and balance to the kingdom.
Visually, “The Lion King” is a stunning and groundbreaking film, especially in the opening scene where we see Rafiki lifting up baby Simba and the animals of the kingdom are cheering and bowing. The music and score are all beautiful and wonderful as well. The updated versions of “The Circle of Life”, “I Can’t Wait To Be King”, “Hakuna Matata”, and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” are all as good as the original versions.
Despite the line-for-line and shot-for-shot adaptation, the tones of the two films are vastly different. The 1994 film was more fun, silly, and emotional. Simply, the cartoon characters had more facial expressions and there was slapstick humor throughout the film. As an audience, we saw the fear and guilt in Simba’s eyes when Mufasa died. We felt something for Simba. Furthermore, it was a joy to see Rafiki using his martial arts to punch and kick the Hyenas. In contrast, the remake felt more serious and epic. Due to photo-realistic computer animation, the characters lacked facial expressions. When Mufasa died, we didn’t feel the fear and guilt in Simba’s eyes. We just experienced a real lion murdered by another lion. And in this incarnation, Rafiki came across as a serious character, rather than a carefree one. His fight scene against the Hyenas was more simple and straightforward and lacked the humor.
Overall, the 2019 film is a beautifully made piece of work. Despite the different tones and minor changes, it remains a faithful adaptation to the original animated film.