Visually stunning Lion King remake a bit short on heart

Simba the future king is born in a scene from Disney’s all-new The Lion King. ©2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news is the live action remake of the beloved Disney classic The Lion King is visually breathtaking and will set a new standard for realistic “animation.”

To fully understand the team’s incredible achievement, know that not a single thing you see in this film is real. Not a single blade of grass, not a zebra, elephant, antelope, hyena, mouse, warthog, meerkat, bird, lion, flamingo, cheetah, not a single picturesque African savannah – NOTHING.

Every single frame features images that are 100% computer created. I hammer that because when you see it you will instantly forget. Within the first minute of the opening notes of the Circle of Life your brain will have you asking, “My word! How did they train all of these animals?”

You will remind yourself it’s not real, and within 60 seconds you’ll have to start all over again – the visuals are that good.

The bad news is something we should have anticipated; real animals don’t emote the way hand-drawn animated animals can. We fall in love with animated creatures partly because their faces are imbued with human emotion – real lions don’t smile.

Newsflash – they also don’t talk! And this makes for an interesting dilemma. Because the animals don’t emote nearly as well as we’re used to, the remake doesn’t have quite the heart of the original.

This is easily solved, because almost everyone on the planet over the age of five has seen the animated version, and you can carry the love you feel for it into this new live action one. But I’m not sure this new version will win the hearts of children unfamiliar with the original.

Now the talking. The lions move their mouths in a very subtle way when they speak, which in lion-heavy scenes can make the film feel a bit like a documentary being narrated instead of a very real movie featuring talking lions.

Other animals seem to have escaped this fate simply by the design of their mouths. It all boils down to one problem – the animals might be, well, too real.

Nevertheless, despite the overachievement of completely realistic animal animation this film is filled with goodness.

The vocal performances of the supporting cast– John Oliver as Zazu, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, James Earl Jones as Mufasa (the only original cast member in the remake) and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi are excellent.

On top of that, Billy Eichner as Timon and Canada’s own Seth Rogen as Pumba steal the show as the unlikely duo who adopt young Simba.

Donald Glover as Simba and Beyonce as Nala are stronger when they’re singing than delivering dialogue, but knocking Can You Feel the Love Tonight out of the ballpark will make most people overlook it.

In the end, The Lion King is a not-all-that-necessary remake of a cherished film. It will leave you in awe of the technological advances of the medium, but you may want to schedule a movie night and revisit the original as soon as possible.

 

Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia