Based on the original 1994 traditional animated film Disney takes another swing at the Lion King in a fully formatted CGI version. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Lion King follows the story of Simba, a young lion cub (voiced by JD McCrary) who is destined to be King. However, his uncle, Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) has alternate plans and intends to assume the throne and take control over Pride Rock. With the help of the hyenas including leader Shenzi (voiced by Florence Kasumba), Scar leads them on to Pride Rock where tragedy befalls Simba. Afraid for what will come next, Simba flees the Pride lands and finds refuge and friendship in the form of a meerkat named Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner) and a warthog named Pumba (voiced by Seth Rogen) where they teach him the meaning of Hakuna Matata. Now grown up, Simba (voiced by Donald Glover) is confronted by the past he tried to escape in the form of childhood friend Nala (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) who has fled Pride rock to find help. The two of them reunite and Simba must decide whether to return home, facing the ghosts of his past.
Disney’s Lion King has always been a favourite of mine so when I heard they were making a remake I was unsure whether they would be able to make a film that stood up to the original. In an effort to improve representation, the cast of this film is primarily made up of Black actors. This was a positive move from a company that has historically struggled with representation. I love the fact that they cast the original voice of Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) as he is such a strong character and it helped keep the nostalgia but strengthened the film as a whole. Above all characters, I could not see anyone else taking on this role. However, the voice casting for Scar was disappointing compared to Jeremy Irons performance in the original. Compared to Iron’s, Ejiofor lacked the maliciousness and sarcasm that defines this character. When he threatens Mufasa in an early scene, it lacked the feeling of threat that underlined the original. This was emphasised by the performance of Kasumba who shone as the evil Shenzi, a much more fearsome villain then Scar in this rendition. Donald Glover who plays adult Simba alongside Beyoncé as Nala did a very good performance ‘Can you feel the love tonight” and Beyoncé’s voice could really shine through. However, this, in my opinion, was the only singing performance that was very good, the rest was a disappointment including Hakuna Matata, on the positive side the characters of Timon and Pumba made up for it in comedic performances.
The overall film was very visually dynamic, and I admired even more so as it was reliant on the CGI holding up without a human cast. They were really able o capture the beauty of the locations within the film and if you were not a massive fan of the original you will likely enjoy the grander visuals of this version. Enjoying the plot and the storylines and all the other aspects is one thing but being able to respect and take in the beauty of scene locations take sit up to a different level. The highlights for me were the scenes of the canyon chase scene which led to Mufasa’s death due to the level of detail with the results of a wildebeest stampede right down to the dust kicked up being shown. I also enjoyed the final battle for the kingdom between Simba and Scar because it was visually stunning, and it showed the brutality of the fight. This was fantastic and to add the extra layer of the rain and fire made it even more realistic and impressive.
I would recommend this film to anyone who wasn’t a die-hard fan of the original. Of course, it lacks the originality of the 1994 version but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer an enjoyable experience.