Director(s) : Jon Favreau
Producer(s) :Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist and Jeffrey Silver
Voice Characters : Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and James Earl Jones
Genre : Animation/Drama
Release Date : July 19, 2019 (Nigeria)
Awesome-O-Metre : 6.0/10
Revue of THE LION KING
Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends (Timon and Pumba), Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
Lion King is a classic which I watched over 100 times (of course I am exaggerating) as a kid but I enjoyed it every single time. So, like the real agbaya that I am, I went to see it immediately this live action (can we call it live action?) came to cinemas and one thing that jumps at you is the hyperrealism of the animals that will make you think you are watching NatGeo Wild! The CGI is phenomenal and while this may be too early, I am ready to stick out my neck and say it will get an Oscar nomination for best CGI. It took me a bit of time to adjust to the fact that these real-life Lions were talking but once you get past that, The Lion King is a very good adaptation of the classic 1994 animated classic. However, with hyperrealism, a big part of the film was sacrificed, and that aspect is the facial expressions of the lions and the animals in general. In the animated classic, the animals expressed emotions not just by words but with expressions but unfortunately, this was lost in this new version because of course, the lions couldn’t show any real facial expressions. This also extended to the coloring of the film which was dull compared to the original Lion King.
With the loss of the facial expressions, The Lion King relied heavily on the voice characterizations to transmit the emotions of the animals. The voice characters did a really good job in their songs and their voice characterizations. Donald Glover put in a good shift as the adult Simba and James Earl Jones (even though his voce sounds more vintage) was still as powerful and even though Chiwetel isn’t Jeremy Irons I think he did well as the villainous Scar. Beyoncé, Seth Rogen and John Oliver also did amazing jobs. I was however disappointed with the voice of Rafiki. I loved the late Robert Guillaume’s voicing of the playful but wise Baboon, but I am unconvinced with John Kani’s voicing and I am not sure why his influence and general role was so greatly reduced.
Another thing The Lion King got right is that it fleshed out the plot of the original and made some scenes more realistic. For instance we get to find out how Scar got the scar on his face and the process through which Rafiki discovers that Simba is alive is more believable. I must however add that the push for verisimilitude meant that they had to sacrifice some of the old classic’s beloved lines and scenes. For instance, Pumba’s decoy to distract the hyenas by singing a ridiculous song while dressed as a juicy meal was removed and replaced with a drab presentation by Timon. Talking about presentation, I didn’t quite like Chiwetel’s rendition of “Be Prepared”. Infact, I was unaware that he had started singing the song until he was halfway done. In the original Lion King, that song was such a delightfully evil song and the march past of the Hyenas further intensified the scene but all that was sacrificed for realism. Sigh.
Particularly painful for me, Scar lost so much of his witty sarcasm that I almost cried. I remember when in the original, Simba said “Uncle Scar, you are so weird” and he replied with sarcasm “you have no idea”. Sadly, there wasn’t any sarcasm in this Scar – just pure evil. Even the Hyenas who were stooges in the original Lion King but are now so mean, like Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) is just stone cold . I guess its all in the spirit of realism. Talking about Spirits, Beyoncé new song “Spirit” is a perfect fit to this film and her curated album is also not so bad but I sha think its overhyped.
The Lion King is very good and entertaining. However, the producers have tampered with a few things like tweaking the songs and the lines to make them more representative and contemporary but not too much as to spoil the film or deviate too much from the classic 1994 film. If you are an agbaya (like me) Mufasa’s death will still sting and may put a little shine in your eye (from dust obviously) and will resonate with you now that you are older. Also, another thing that will resonate with you is the sheer genius of Scar’s coup-de-etat which was flawless in its planning and execution showing that when there is sufficient ambition, there would probably be success.
Have a great week!