The Lion King (2019)

The Lion King
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Remake of: The Lion King
Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Penny Johnson Jerald, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris, Chance the Rapper [I saw the German dub, though]
Seen on: 9.8.2019
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Plot:
Mufasa (James Earl Jones) rules the lions and the other animals in his valley. He has a son, Simba (JD McCrary), who is poised to inherit everything. But Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is plotting against both of them – and succeeds. And so, Simba finds himself exiled and what used to be his kingdom taken over. Will he find the courage to fight for his people?

The original Lion King was “my” Disney movie – probably my favorite, certainly a very formative one – it just hit me at exactly the right age. Given this fact and the fact that I find these remakes mostly unnecessary, I was pretty much decided to not watch this film at all. But then I had a cinema date with my nieces and they chose this film and I ended up seeing it anyway (and in German to boot, though since I knew all the songs and so on in German anyway, that’s not that much of a deal in this case). This is all to say, I went into the film with trepidation and I left it very impressed by the visuals.

The film poster showing Mufasa standing with small Simba on a rock as the sun sets.

Remaking all their animation classics is an excellent way to make even more money for Disney, and I kind of resent them for it (and myself a little for going to see at least some of them. I am part of the problem). They should give new stories and new people a chance with that money.

In this case, the film is almost a shot for shot remake of the original (as far as I remember) with only very few changes. And those changes don’t always work. They cut Be Prepared down (since the German singer here wasn’t particularly good, I have to be almost grateful for that), losing the clear references to fascism that are in the original, though still retaining the political criticism. Nala gets a bit more motivation and character, which is a good thing (Can You Feel the Love Tonight wasn’t great in the German dub, either). Rafiki’s role was also whittled down and they missed the chance to translate his – apparently – nonsensical prattle (that is actually just Swahili, as far as I know) and make this part a little less racist.

Little Simba being held up by Rafiki.

But as conflicted as I am about these changes, I will freely admit that the film looks stunning. There were long stretches, especially in the beginning, where it feels like you’re watching a nature documentary. They can’t keep that level throughout the entire film – sometimes the movement is a little off and there is definitely a disconnect between the realistic look and the humanized facial expressions and general behavior of the animals. In any case, it is incredibly impressive.

And the story is good, that much is certain. Just as certain as little Pumbaa is basically cuteness personified. It does make Lion King (2019) a good watch, even if it isn’t quite as good as Lion King (1994), at least not in my nostalgia-tainted book.

Mufasa and little Simba surveying their lands.

Summarizing: not bad, but the original is better, if you ask me.

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