The Lion King live action: Does it actually work?

lion king live action
Kestra

Kestra

Unless you’d been living under a pride rock these past few months, I’m sure you’ve noticed that crowning glory of the Disney franchise The Lion King has returned as a new live action film.

Not only is The Lion King back in cinemas, but it has cultivated an absolutely star-studded cast to defeat all other star-studded casts. Beyoncé. Donald Glover. Seth Rogen. Chance the Rapper. Eric Andre. Beyoncé. Alfre Woodward. John Oliver. Billy Eichner. Beyoncé! And James Earl Jones even came back to reprise his iconic role as Mufasa.

But for many, the return of this prize film hasn’t been a welcome one.

For a few years now, Disney have been working on making some of their classics into live action realities. Emma Watson’s time as Belle landed pretty well in Beauty and the Beast back in 2017, and this year we saw Will Smith, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott take the helm of Aladdin.

Alfre Woodward as Sarabi

When they announced their plans to bring The Lion King to life, the question on many people’s minds was how? Other films in Disney’s repertoire generally star human characters, so with a film like The Lion King, how they chose to portray those animals would make or break the film.

Last November, the trailer for the live action remake of The Lion King was announced and we took a look at some of the instant reactions people had to the film, with criticisms coming of the brightness of the colours and the apparent drab new look Disney were going for, versus the cuteness of a little baby Simba.

So does how the film stand up now that it’s out? We reached out to some of our favourite cinema reviewers to get their take on it.

Pride Rock

The Lion King resurrects the Disney magic that has been all but lost of late. A nostalgic magical adventure. The beautiful CGI rendering of each creature and the surrounding environments was done immaculately. You could easily have been watching a nature documentary on TV. Hats off to the digital effects team.

I’d highly recommend viewing the movie in 4DX, with the wind in your hair and the smell of fresh open plains in the auditorium there’s really no better way to experience this Disney spectacle.

Sean Evans, Back to the Movies

Sean, the founder of Back to the Movies, kicks us off with a fairly positive opinion of The Lion King live action. The excellent CGI combined with its latent nostalgia made for an overall enjoyable experience, only heightened by the next level of comfort offered by 4DX.

In his review, Sean praised the performance of Donald Glover and Beyoncé and highlighted how the comedy of the film retained its classic humour, still being impactful during the emotional sequences.

Strong vocal performances and a heavy reliance on nostalgia provide an almost frame-by-frame recreation that fails to be as exciting as the previous Disney remakes.

Charing Kam, Frame Rated

Charing on the other hand, found that the film fell flat when compared to its 1994 counterpart. That same nostalgia was there, but where Sean felt it made the film more enticing, Charing critiqued how reliant the 2019 edition seemed to be on it.

She also made note of how jarring these incredibly realistic animal characters talking was, pointing out that the focus on hyper-realism left the character unable to emote during the sadder scenes.

Scar in The Lion King live action

I liked the Lion King, live action version. Favreau has delivered a visually ravishing reason to see it on the big screen, even if the narrative remains steadfastly loyal to the original animation. It’s a sumptuous visual feast, anchored by great vocal performances and a story that – for young viewers especially – resonates in a way that Shakespeare would be proud of. And his work doesn’t get tinkered with much either!

Rob Carnevale, IndieLondon

Arguably, when you’re dealing with a story written by one of the literary greats, it’s hard to go wrong with it. The similarities between Hamlet and The Lion King are hard to ignore, and it’s part of what makes the storyline so compelling.

IndieLondon’s editor, Rob, explains how the new visuals laid over an age old tale have made for an exceptional viewing experience. By hearkening back to the original animation, Favreau’s The Lion King has kept it relatable for long-time fans but also accessible for a new wave of audiences.

Despite the majestic visuals, The Lion King 2019 is nothing more than a shallow cash grabbing remake. The film is missing the heart and soul of the original, this is one classic film that should have been left alone

Paul Devine, The People’s Movies

Paul, who leads The People’s Movies, came from the side that whilst beautiful, The Lion King lacks much of the originals charm. It has become such an important part of today’s pop culture and so very formative for many of our own childhoods.

By tampering with that, not only have Disney messed with what is an incredible film, but they have messed with the ideal image of it so many of us have built in our minds.

But what did you think of the film? Was The Lion King live action a hit or a miss for you? If you’ve not seen it yet, grab some tickets here and see what side of the fence you fall on!

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