lion king review

Film review: The Lion King, 2019

2019 marks the silver anniversary of The Lion King animation. Ben Peyton check out the remake…

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, Billy Eichner, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph and James Earl Jones

2019 marks the silver anniversary of The Lion King animation, and so Disney present us with the gift of another remake of one of their most beloved films. Taking pride of place on the silver screen is director Jon Favreau’s computer generated vision of this African adventure.

As a young cub and the rightful heir to Pride Rock, Simba (McCrary and the Glover) is manipulated by his Machiavellian uncle, Scar (Ejiofer), into thinking he is responsible for his father’s death. Exiled, he grows up far away from his haunted past, in his own circle of life, until he returns to reclaim his throne and put an end to Scar’s selfish and dangerous reign of terror.

There’s no denying the sheer wonder of the world Favreau and the team of visual effect masters MPC have created. The spectacle, scale and attention to detail is simply breath-taking. You can almost taste the dryness and feel the heat coming off the blue savannah. Whether it’s herds of elephants, colonies of ants or stampeding wildebeests, the animals are brought to life with astonishing clarity, but they are also the film’s flaw. The lack of emotion on their faces means the voice actors must work even harder, which they do, but it isn’t enough to produce the emotional impact intended. Their mouths look slightly odd as they deliver dialogue they were never meant to say and this makes you long for the expressiveness drawn so beautifully by the original animators.

The electrifying ensemble are all perfectly cast although Beyoncé brings some unnecessary vocal gymnastics to Nala’s jungle boogie. Chiwetel Ejiofor successfully brings Scar’s sinister side to life, but stealing the show, again, are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen who inject some much-needed pace and humour into the proceedings as Timon and Pumbaa. James Earl Jones as Mufasa brings his usual gravelly gravitas to add a lovely dose of nostalgia as the only returning player from the original movie.

Given how life-like the visuals are, be warned that some of the more sensitive children out there might be slightly overwhelmed by the viciousness of a handful of scenes. The hyenas, whilst amusing in parts, have a raw savagery to them that may prevent your young lion from sleeping tonight.

Not quite justifying its remake worth, The Lion King is a visual treat, but once the initial awe wears off it’s a slightly laboured and anti-climactic addition to Disney’s catalogue which lacks the payoff the majestic original roared with.