The Lion King (2019) Jul 21, 2019 18:13:56 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 21, 2019 18:13:56 GMT -5
The Lion King (2019)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Zazu (voiced by John Oliver) speaks to Simba (voiced by JD McCrary).
Jon Favreau's The Lion King has all the visual splendor his Jungle Book reboot did, but frankly, none of the surprise. The long-anticipated "live-action" retelling of one of Disney's most beautiful films is an empty bastardization, content with sacrificing the emotional and epic story in favor of making it just another hollow blockbuster. With technology like this, new stories should be told with unforeseen settings imagined. Instead, it feels like a blatant contradiction from a corporate empire insistent on filling the swamp.
I put "live-action" in quotations because The Lion King is indeed an animated film, using state of the art photorealistic animation in order to make the animals appear like living, breathing creatures. More on that in a bit. Remember when one of Nickelodeon's best cartoon series, The Fairly Oddparents, decided that taking a show that was born to be animated and making a series of live-action TV movies was a wise move? Or when M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount decided to forgo the obvious with Avatar: The Last Airbender and bring it into the real world? Maybe The Lion King doesn't sink to the latter level of complete mediocrity, but there are innumerable cases that prove taking a story and characters out of its traditional, hand-drawn element isn't a wise artistic move. Had Disney's 1994 classic never existed, this would indeed not be a talking-point. But because there is something to compare this reboot to, and because that something is arguably one of the best animated films of all time, comparison is not the friend of the Mouse House's latest, soulless offering.
I'm sure by now you know the story, but a quick refresher should do no harm. The film reiterates the story of a lion cub named Simba (voiced by JD McCrary as a cub and Donald Glover as an adult), who is set to inherit the throne of the Pride Lands, where he'll rule over a grandiose patch of African pastures inhabited by many different animals, succeeding King Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his role from the 1994 film). Not if Mufasa's vindictive brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) can help it, however. His plan to kill both his brother and nephew goes over fairly well, as he pushes Mufasa into a stampede and tells Simba to scram, convincing the cub he's responsible for his father's death.
Simba leaves behind all he (barely) knows before being taken in by two lovable mooks known as Timon (Billy Eichner), a meerkat, and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a warthog. Whereas Simba was taught the "circle of life" from his father, Timon and Pumbaa give him the perspective of the bottom-feeders who see their lives as little else besides an obligatory journey that will end bleakly. With that said, hakuna matata!
The beautiful component about animation is the most obvious: its ability to convey what can't be expressed or duplicated in the real world. Disney proved that tremendously with the original Lion King — an unfair signifier the animated feature will now have to be known as — by way of sympathetic facial expressions and moments of grand emotional relevance. Those are two details lost in this reboot, for no matter how far advancements in computer animation have progressed in curating a lion's fur or the acrobatics of harmless flies, technology is still ill-equipped to remove the dead eyes and expression-less faces of animals. If they're not menacing by showing their teeth, they're unnervingly neutral in their appearance.
On paper, the voice cast of the film is sublime. In actuality, the voice cast is underwhelming. While McCrary is a great Simba, Glover's voice just doesn't make for believable progression when the second act comes along. Beyoncé knows one speed when it comes to doing voicework and that speed is theatrical and brazen, something that doesn't always suit Nala. When Simba and Nala converse as cubs, you get the sense that their dialog was taken from two different films. James Earl Jones, again, makes Mufasa come to life with his thunderous vocals, capable of cracking any speaker, and Ejiofor is convincing with some added bass, not to mention a real tone of condescension. But overall, save for Rogen and McCrary, the cast doesn't come to life as you expect, and ultimately fares better as names on a poster.
The musical numbers are largely fine, which isn't the way I find myself used to describing the songs in this film. The hallmark tune, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” is still a triumph, brought to greater life thanks to Beyoncé's incredible pipes, and as brief as they are, "Hakuna Matata" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" sound strong as Eichner and Rogen make for a charming duo, thanks to being the few characters in the film to have a flowing conversation with one another. But the accompanying visuals during the musical numbers are downright questionable. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is sung in broad daylight, and "Be Prepared" loses a lot of its germane visual splendor thanks to the gray and brooding ambiance that exists whenever Scar is on-screen — a detail, like one of several, best left for traditional, not photorealistic, animation to convey.
A few weeks ago, Disney confirmed it was scrapping a film based on David Petersen's comic series Mouse Guard, following its monster acquisition of 20th Century Fox. Returning to an earlier point, Disney is higher and mightier than ever before; they essentially own American cinema, though that's not the sexiest way to put it. It'd be wonderful if the studio used this opportunity and their infinite stockpiles of money and assets to tell new stories for the young generation rather than regurgitating old properties and masquerading as if it's a testament to innovation or progress. Instead, we get The Lion King, a faithful reminder on why the bulk of these reimagined Disney properties are money today and nothing tomorrow.
Voiced by: Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, JD McCrary, James Earl Jones, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, John Kani, and John Oliver. Directed by: Jon Favreau.