The Lion King is a Perfectly Mediocre Film Ruined by Star Power

Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Rest of the Songs
Reader Rating0 Votes
Pride Rock
I guess it's one giant leap for animation
For what it's worth, re-living certain moments was great
Shame Wall
Good lord, what the hell was that even, Beyonce?
We lost "He Lives in You" for "Spirit"? WHY?!
The animation... the dead eyes...
Never let "hip-hop" "artists" get near Disney songs ever again. Please!

A very clear difference between Disney and Dreamworks animated features is the cast. Where Disney is well aware of the power its own brand wields in the marketing game, Dreamworks often relies on the sheer star power it brings with its projects.

While not entirely co-related, I often find that this leads to slightly higher quality assurance from the Disney camp. After all, where bad reviews would eventually tarnish their brand power, the star power method of Dreamworks will remain pristine as long as the actors themselves remained desirable.

Unfortunately, Disney seems to have fallen in to the Dreamworks trap with The Lion King. Which is especially weird given that The Lion King could have essentially gone straight to Youtube and would have still found a billion viewers before you could say “warthog.”

With its timing and similarly conflicting reviews, it is inevitable that The Lion King will be compared to the recent Aladdin. While both seem to have failed in understanding what made the originals such classics, and with over-reliance on certain elements such as star power and shiny aspects like unnecessary rearrangements of songs, Aladdin could take shelter in its effort to be something new.

The Lion King, however, is far too lazy to make any changes where it matters (possibly the smartest thing they did given how the original already works), and instead wastes its time on some of the best CGI ever. Unfortunately, like with all story-telling tools, it matters not how great your graphics are if it essentially impedes the story.

With a cast ranging from the original line-up to people who weren’t even born when the original premiered, from gravitas heavy actors to comic relief icons, from talented multi-disciplinary performers to Beyonce, the cast of The Lion King comes off as a cross between somewhat woke/diverse casting and also playing it safe in case audience found the cast “too black.”

Which is a thing I, recently, learned about. Go figure.

And it doesn’t help that by the time the cast becomes a problem, you are already aware of the odd abomination you’re witnessing.

Following the insane achievement of The Jungle Book in 2016, Disney made the wise decision to have the creative team, led by Disney-darling Jon Favreau, move on to working on The Lion King. ‘Cause CG animals, yo. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have told Team Disney to ixnay on the ealismray.

Starting off with all the majestic beauty of a National Geographic narrative documentary, the strong score and vocals of Lebo M’s arrangements boost the story-telling nature of the opening sequence culminating in the iconic shot of Rafiki holding high young Simba. Emotions peak, and the hyper realism forges a very surreal experience of watching life imitate art.

Then the animals speak… and the rest of the movie feels like a very well cut sequence of clips from the most well-shot, Al Gore-approved documentaries, with its David Attenborough narration stripped, and the audio of the original animated film carefully laid over.

It is unfortunate that animals do not emote the same ways as us humans and every shot of The Lion King is a painful reminder of why realism is not necessarily the easiest thing to accept.

But then the second half arrives, following the brief reprieve of Timon and Pumbaa, and the movie somehow gets worse. Where the animated behaviour of a meerkat and warthog eased the movie for a while, the return to the drama just made things worse.

While Donald Glover as Simba was certainly a draw, and his entry strong, the spiral in engagement reappeared with all of its earlier issues now compounded by the presence of very recognisable voices. With so much invested in realism, Glover’s and Beyonce’s accents served to only remind you that, essentially, real lions can’t talk.

I know: no shit.

And while both of their flat acting can be blamed on the odd filming/directing process The Lion King employed, the true crime unfortunately is the utter butchering of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Given the two very talented singers who were now a part of this, it’s nothing short of shocking that Bill Eichner and Seth Rogen may have done more to save the song.

Which is ironic given how the song was almost made a Timon-Pumbaa melody in the original feature, but was re-assigned to Simba and Nala on composer Elton John’s insistence.

But that’s almost no sin compared to Beyonce original, “Spirit” infecting the soundtrack. A random, emotionless, typical-Beyonce-borderline-yelling number, it shatters the catharsis of Simba’s realisation that his father lives on in him in the previous scene. Pity there wasn’t already a song for that.

No, wait, that is exactly the point of “He Lives In You,” a song written for the musical and even heard in the animated sequel to the original film. This, unfortunately, is the sealing moment of the production’s fall to star power, and very little of the remaining movie is able to salvage this.

I’ll end this with not a trailer for The Lion King, but a video of the greatest Disney song you may have never heard, and hope that Maleficent puts an end to this abysmal run of live action remakes. Save your money till then.