Growing up in the 90s was the best of things. We witnessed the evolution of animation and CGI with groundbreaking films like Jurassic Park, Toy Story and of course, The Lion King.
But apart from the influential storytelling techniques these films used, there was, nevertheless, a story to tell, The 1994 original Lion King being the best example of it. Cut to 2019 and all we have witnessed so far are renderings of those same stories with no creative contribution of this generation whatsoever, except better visuals, the 2019 reboot Lion King is the best example of it.
For a film that exists purely to make money, it is narratively bankrupt – a shot-for-shot remake of a universally beloved classic that is ironically less affecting, despite aiming for realism, than the cartoon that inspired it.
Here’s our detailed dissection of this week’s The Lion King for you.
You can refer the Wikipedia page for the original Lion King, or Hamlet for that matter, for a glimpse of what narrative the reboot has in store for you. Still, here’s a gist: Simba is born, he’s introduced to Pride Lands, taught lessons in honour and legacy by his father, Mufasa.
When Mufasa is killed in a wildebeest stampede, young Simba is banished from the land by his evil uncle Scar and is raised by a group of jolly animals, until years later, he is summoned back to claim what is rightfully his and save the kingdom from Scar’s torment.
The Lion King is perhaps the greatest achievement in visual effects storytelling since Avatar. As I understand, no live-action photography took place in the African savanna, but for the first time ever, I couldn’t tell what was real and what was computer-generated.
Visually, the film gets full points. Other than that the cast, it must be said, is very good; especially Donald Glover as the adult Simba and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who had the unenviable task of filling Jeremy Irons’ shoes as Scar. But I was pleasantly surprised by how seamless the Hindi dub, lead by Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan was. Shah Rukh brings an incredible gravitas to the role of Mufasa, and his stardom seeps through the ones and zeroes of his formidable CGI character.
Curiously for a film that is so heavily dependent on its visuals, the musical numbers that were such a delight in the original Lion King are easily the most boring aspects of the remake. Instead of frolicking about in a Hula skirt or swinging from jungle vines, nearly all of Timon and Pumbaa’s song sequences involve interminably long walks.
And for some baffling reason, the song Can You Feel the Love Tonight has been set in the daytime, which is, as you’d agree, a slap in the face of its title! But such is the power of Beyonce’s vocals, I guess. Besides utterly overwhelming poor Donald Glover, whose voice is reduced to mere background noise, they can successfully alter the time of day, in spite of lyrics that include words such as ‘evening’ and ‘twilight’.
All In All
After having seen all of these recent remakes the overwhelming takeaway is this: Each of these new films is enormously inferior to the originals. But also, none of these remakes seem to have been made for those of us who’ve grown up with the classics, but the real targets are your children; innocent little critters who’ve never seen the animated originals before, despite your best efforts to transfer some of your own childhood passion onto them.
But that, as Disney has taught us, is the circle of life. I’m going with 2.5 out of 5 stars for our this week’s entry in the yearly reboot catalogue. I wonder how many others are coming!