The Lion King Is Now In Live Action. So Why Is It So Dead?
It made me miss The Lion King of my youth
To many of us, the Disney classics are untouchable and unbeatable. After all, we still hold the songs in high regard despite us memorizing every tonal inclination and accented flourish. We laugh at punchlines we’ve heard dozens of times and we haven’t tired of the animation despite our attempts to draw characters during those boring minutes of a classroom discussion.
Needless to say, it would take one heck of a remake for us to even think of it as good. And let’s just say for now that 2019’s The Lion King doesn’t even compare to the gem that was released in 1994.
Star power for star power’s sake
James Earl Jones as Mufasa. Alfre Woodard as Sarabi. Donald Glover as Simba. Beyoncé as Nala. Disney put out all the stops to ensure that they had the big names of Hollywood to fill in the big shoes of some of their most iconic characters. But don’t they know that voice acting is a separate art in itself?
It takes a certain skill to give life to a character that isn’t physically you and there were moments in The Lion King that just felt disconnected. Sometimes it was between the character and the voice actor, sometimes what caused it was the picture in my head that automatically popped up when I heard their voices.
Is that my fault or theirs? Side note: Imagine if Whoopi Goldberg still voiced Shenzi!
Deadpan live action
This is going to be a little weird, but the animals were lacking some serious emotion. There were moments of anger and sadness that just didn’t translate properly in CGI. The eyes were a little deadpan and their mouths didn’t snarl, smile or quiver enough for it to be realistic—and yes, I am aware of how logically ridiculous that sounds considering these animals are expected to dance and sing.
But this lack in emotion causes a riff between the protagonists/antagonists and those of us watching. It makes it difficult to feel any real strong emotion. So as much as you want to empathize with Simba as he loses his father and hero, you just can’t fully let yourself drown in the horror. As much as you want to cheer on Nala as she turns her back on a Simba that refuses to let go of his Hakuna Matata-living, you just can’t feed off of her strength.
Realistic does not mean relatable
Kudos to the people that tirelessly worked on every curly hair that sprouted off Pumbaa’s snout and every scar that plagued the hyenas’ faces, but…no.
The creation of The Lion King, in technical aspects, showcased the best of what 2019 technology can offer. The movement, the attention to detail and the overall design was nothing short of mesmerizing, but this isn’t a National Geographic documentary you put on to marvel at mother nature.
I wanted Pumbaa to be cute and I expected the hyenas to be snarky. Scar was supposed to be menacing but ended up looking a little too lanky to instill any actual fear. Mufasa, in all his glory, wasn’t as magnificent as I remember him. Everyone fell a little too short of who we know them to be, making the playing field a little too even between all the characters.
The comedy doe
If there is a saving grace for The Lion King, it would have to be the comedy. The immortal punchlines of Timon and Pumbaa were still there, complemented by some new jokes that made the entire cinema laugh. So for people that love when a movie is aware of itself, this one is for you.
Thank you, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner, for delivering.
The main question is whether or not The Lion King is worth watching this time around. And the answer is yes—but you can afford to wait for a streaming service to house it. I mean, we all know how it ends anyway right?
On that note, is anyone else thirsting for a new Disney original, for a classic that the young generation will hold as dearly as we loved the animations of the 90s? Not a remake, not another chapter; something completely original? I know I am.
Art Alexandra Lara