The Lion King (2019) proves that while photorealistic CGI is awe-inspiring, it doesn’t necessarily entertain.
The Lion King (2019) Synopsis
The Lion King (2019) is a super photorealistic CGI remake of the 1994 Disney animated hit. Like the original movie, the story follows the transformation of young Simba from carefree cub to exiled prince, and finally to reluctant leader. All songs from the animated version are included. There is additionally a brand new track by Beyoncé, who voices Simba’s love interest Nala. Lastly, James Earl Jones returns as wise Mufasa. While villainous Scar is brought to life by Chiwetel Ejiofor.
I watched The Lion King (2019) last Thursday but have been sitting on this review since. Reason being, I just couldn’t place my finger on what went wrong.
Oh no, I’m not saying I hated this remake. All else aside, I enjoyed the chance to listen to all the famous tracks again in a cinema. (Some are considered must-learn songs for the Electone, btw) What happened was instead, throughout the whole movie, something just felt to be missing. In fact, this was noticeable right from the start of the movie. For one reason or another, even the majestic Circle of Life sequence didn’t quite have the same punch as the original animated version. It felt … dry.
Now, if you’ve been reading other online reviews, you’d know I’m not the only one who felt this remake lacks “heart,” or “drive,” or whatever you call it. Various explanations have been also proposed, ranging from the plot being too similar to the ‘94 movie, to the blank expressions of the CGI animals, to the overall colour palette lacking the vivid exuberance of its animated predecessor.
I believe all these explanations are right in their own way, although I can’t decide which contributed the most. In addition, I suppose my inability to differentiate the animals also had something to do with it. When they were not speaking, I could barely tell the lionesses apart. During the fast-moving gorge scene, I often couldn’t decide whether I was looking at Mufasa or Scar.
This confusion, one way or another, much contributed to me sub-consciously drawing away from the story. In short, The Lion King (2019) was too like a nature documentary. I was aware of what was happening on screen but I was seldom encouraged to care about it. My place was to remain in the bushes as an aloof observer.