The Lion King live remake splits critics as some brand it ‘a cold, unemotional mistake’ while others dub it ‘a game-changing masterpiece’ (and it only scores 58% on Rotten Tomatoes)
More reviews have poured in as the week has gone on, following the Hollywood premiere of the live-action remake of Disney classic The Lion King.
And it seems that critics are somewhat divided, with many heaping it with praise and many claiming to have found it disappointing and somewhat drab.
Review curator Rotten Tomatoes list the film with a just-above-average 58 percent, reflecting the consensus that, while it’s visually beautiful, there is only so much emotion the audience can feel towards CGI animals.
Dark? More reviews have poured in as the week has gone on, following the Hollywood premiere of the live action remake of Disney classic The Lion King. And it seems that critics are somewhat divided, with many heaping it with praise and many claiming to have found it somewhat drab
Others have branded it ‘fine’ as a live incarnation of the animated classic from 1994, but claim it brings nothing new to the story.
The Daily Mail’s Brian Viner was a fan, and awarded it four stars.
Earlier this week, he wrote: ‘By the time the breathtaking Circle Of Life sequence has opened Jon Favreau’s exhilarating new film, as hordes of African animals converge on Pride Rock to pay homage to their newly-born future sovereign, any cynicism should have melted like a snowman on the savannah.’
Yet Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411 labeled it ‘corporate’, saying: ‘The new Lion King, I am sorry to say, is grim and dark.
Average: Review curator Rotten Tomatoes list the film with a just-above-average 58 percent, reflecting the consensus that, while it’s visually beautiful, there is only so much emotion the audience can feel towards CGI animals
‘It’s not the buoyant celebration of life created for the stage by Julie Taymor, or the vibrant colorful explosion of love seen in the original film.
‘I suppose in some scenes, when there are stampedes and so on, it’s exciting. But two lions just hanging around not chatting, it’s weird.’
One critic, Beatrice Verhoeven, called it a ‘visual masterpiece that will leave you smiling and crying the whole time.’
THE LION KING: THE GOOD REVIEWS
The Lion King, however, might just be the best remake yet, like a Disney film orchestrated by David Attenborough
– Brian Viner, Daily Mail
It’s a landmark visual experience. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think it’s going to change how we look at movies forever
– Adam B Vary, Buzzfeed
It’s a nice complement to the original that will answer some questions you may have had watching the animated version
– Kirsten Acuna, Insider
Pop goddess Beyoncé Knowles-Carter lends still more depth, conveying aspects of bravery and independence in Nala’s personality that weren’t there before
– Peter Debruge, Variety
It’s Florence Kasumba as hyena pack leader Shenzi who earns this film’s MVP title. Her Eartha Kitt-like ferocity makes for a magnetic and intimidating presence through the power of her vocal timbre
– Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction
People are going to love this film
– Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies
Where the other actors are left to say nearly all the original film’s dialogue, Eichner and Rogen seem to naturally riff off each other, to hilarious effect
– Kristen Lopez, io9
We have more Nala than ever, and her expanded role opens up an enormous range of emotional depth
– Jazz Tangcay, Awards Daily
THE LION KING: THE BAD REVIEWS
The new Lion King, I am sorry to say, is grim and dark
– Roger Friedman, Showbiz 411
It’s hard to say why it’s needed when the first one already exists… as an expansion of the 1994 film, The Lion King says and adds little
– Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
Everything that works in The Lion King does so through the inventions of the former film, in less dazzling fashion
– Robert Daniels, 812 Film Reviews
The Lion King is beholden to the original in a way it can never escape…most of the film feels like little more than a cover of the original
– Brandon Zachary, CBR
This zombified digital clone of the studio’s first original cartoon feature is the Disney equivalent of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho
– David Ehrlich, IndieWire
It is not, a shot for shot remake of the animated classic. It isn’t… watch closely or maybe we’ll wait for someone to prove that is isn’t when the DVD hits
– Jazz Tangcay, Awards Daily
There’s a tremendous amount of craft in The Lion King, and under the direction of Jon Favreau, a complete absence of art
– Matt Patches, Polygon
There’s no sense of wonder in this new Lion King—its most visible attribute is ambition
– Stephanie Zacharek, Time
Joyless, artless, and maybe soulless
– A.A. Dowd, AV Club
The Wrap reporter continued: ‘It’s a true testament to the lasting effect Disney movies have on all generations. Timon and Pumbaa steal the show. And BEYONCE!!!’
Film critic Adam B. Vary was also impressed by Beyonce: ‘Yes, Beyonce is good in #TheLionKing – really good! Nala’s role is indeed bigger, and Bey suits it perfectly.’
He continued: ‘There’s a moment when she tells Simba he’s “disappointed” her, and reader, the way Bey bit the “t” in that word chilled me and thrilled me.’
Adam, who is the BuzzFeed senior film reporter, continued: ‘#TheLionKing is a landmark *visual* experience. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think it’s going to change how we look at movies forever.’
Debut: The premiere of the new live-action remake of The Lion King took place on Tuesday night in Hollywood
The Wrap said of the film: ‘Timon and Pumbaa steal the show. And BEYONCE!!!’
Adding: ‘As an *emotional* experience, though… I’ll put it this way: It turns out lions can’t really emote.’
Beyonce also elevated the soundtrack, according to Fandango managing editor Erik Davis.
He said: ‘#TheLionKing is visually immaculate & a game-changer for visual effects. It’s absolutely stunning in every way.’
Adding: ‘The music shines (Glover & Beyonce take it to another level), the performances are great (Timon, Pumbaa & Scar steal many scenes) & the emotions run HIGH. Truly great.’
Story: The film is a remake of the animated classic, The Lion King, which was released in 1994
Mesmerizing: Donald Glover is the voice of Simbra, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar and John Kani as Rafiki; Nala, Beyonce, is pictured
Positive: Many critics gushed about Disney’s live-action remake
Timon is voiced by Billy Eichner and Pumbaa by Seth Rogen; Beyonce voiced Nala, Simba’s best friend. Donald Glover is the voice of Simba, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar and John Kani as Rafiki.
James Earl Jones, who voiced Simba’s father Mufasa in the original 1994 animated film, returns as the voice of him in the remake. The 2019 film was directed by Jon Favreau.
The Lion King arrives on the big screen on July 19.
REVIEW: THE LION KING by BRIAN VINER
The Lion King
The roaring success and enduring pleasures of Disney’s 1994 animation The Lion King, not to mention the stage musical which is still raking in millions, might make you wonder why they should bother with a live-action remake.
To make more millions, is the short answer.
Yet by the time the breathtaking Circle Of Life sequence has opened Jon Favreau’s exhilarating new film, as hordes of African animals converge on Pride Rock to pay homage to their newly-born future sovereign, any cynicism should have melted like a snowman on the savannah.
Favreau’s earlier hit version of The Jungle Book (2016), along with Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) and 2017’s Beauty And The Beast, have already shown that Disney can recycle its own classics not just lucratively, but also with great pizzazz.
The Lion King, however, might just be the best remake yet, like a Disney film orchestrated by David Attenborough.
My own children, now all grown up, sat devotedly in front of the original so many times that they’ll need to be persuaded that a live-action Scar (uncle of Simba, the lion cub born to be king) can be as villainous as the animated version voiced by Jeremy Irons. Or that the smelly meerkat-warthog double-act Timon and Pumbaa can be as funny.
But I can’t wait for them to see this. It’s beautifully done, and a wonderful platform for some of the best of all Disney songs – written and composed by the more fragrant double-act of Tim Rice and Elton John.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s one Shakespeare could have written, and in Hamlet, more or less did.
Simba (voiced in young adulthood by Donald Glover) is the leonine prince of the Pride Lands, son of mighty Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his role from last time). But Mufasa is murdered by his treacherous brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who hoodwinks Simba into taking the blame.
Simba then escapes Scar’s attempt to kill him but goes into exile, befriending Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and Timon (Billy Eichner), before being reunited with his childhood friend and future queen, Nala (Beyonce).
With her encouragement, and guided by the voice of his dead father, Simba returns to the Pride Lands, deposes the despotic Scar, and takes up his rightful role as king.
The wizardry of Disney’s bells-and-whistles department at times has to be seen to be believed, as staggeringly realistic computer-animated animals talk, sing, wrestle and stampede.
Zazu, the pompous hornbill voiced 25 years ago by Rowan Atkinson and now by John Oliver, the British comedian better-known in the US than he is here, is especially well rendered.
Many scenes and much of the dialogue exactly replicate the 1994 animation, though fans of the original might mildly object to a few changes, such as the flatulent warthog’s use of the F-word (no, not that one, the one that rhymes with ‘heart’) which in the first film was wryly avoided.
Moreover, Favreau has not reproduced one of the most powerful sequences from his first version of The Lion King, the unmistakable image, that might have been lifted from Nazi Germany or modern-day North Korea, of a loyal army of hyenas goose-stepping past Scar.
In truth, there are other areas in which this version doesn’t quite measure up. Traditional animation made the animals’ faces more expressive than they are here, and splendid as the voice cast is, Ejiofor can’t match Irons for fruity, baritone menace.
So if I had to choose, I would probably favour the original. But there is still a huge amount to cherish, including a hilarious rendition of Hakuna Matata, the glorious song Timon and Pumbaa introduce to Simba to help him forget his worries, not to mention Beyonce belting out Can You Feel The Love Tonight.
It might also be that the twin themes of responsible and irresponsible leadership are even more in tune with our times than they were back in 1994.
Still, irresistible as comparisons are, maybe in the end they’re pointless.
This is a terrific film in its own right, and fully deserves to be lionised. It will surely be a huge hit.
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