Directed by: Jon Favreau
Music: Hans Zimmer
Starring: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones
Genre: Drama, Animation, Adventure, Family, Comedy
Release date: 19 July, 2019
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Budget: $260 million
It is a photorealistic computer-animated remake of Disney’s traditionally animated 1994 film The Lion King
The Lion King is a 2019 American musical film directed and produced by Jon Favreau, written by Jeff Nathanson, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is a photorealistic computer-animated remake of Disney’s traditionally animated 1994 film The Lion King. The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his role from the original. The plot follows Simba, a young lion who must embrace his role as the rightful king of his native land following murder of his father, Mufasa, at the hands of his uncle, Scar.
Plans for a remake of The Lion King were confirmed in September 2016 following the success of Disney’s The Jungle Book, also directed by Favreau. Much of the main cast signed in early 2017 and principal production began in mid-2017 on a blue screen stage in Los Angeles.
The film is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on July 19, 2019. It received mixed reviews, with praise for its visual effects, musical score and vocal performances, but criticism for its facial animations and lack of originality.
The Lion King Movie Plot:
After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery.
In the Pride Lands of Africa, a pride of lions rule over the animal kingdom from Pride Rock. King Mufasa’s and Queen Sarabi’s newborn son, Simba, is presented to the gathering animals by Rafiki the mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands and explains to him the responsibilities of kingship and the “circle of life”, which connects all living things. Mufasa’s younger brother, Scar, covets the throne and plots to eliminate Mufasa and Simba, so he may become king. He tricks Simba and his best friend Nala (to whom Simba is betrothed) into exploring a forbidden elephants’ graveyard, where they are attacked by spotted hyenas led by Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi. Mufasa is alerted about the incident by his majordomo, the hornbill Zazu, and rescues the cubs. Though upset with Simba, Mufasa forgives him and explains that the great kings of the past watch over them from the night sky, from which he will one day watch over Simba.
Scar sets a trap for his brother and nephew, luring Simba into a gorge and having the hyenas drive a large herd of wildebeest into a stampede that will trample him. He informs Mufasa of Simba’s peril, knowing that the king will rush to save his son. Mufasa saves Simba but ends up hanging perilously from the gorge’s edge. Scar refuses to help Mufasa, instead sending him falling to his death. He then convinces Simba that the tragedy was Simba’s own fault and advises him to leave the kingdom and never return. He orders the hyenas to kill the cub, but Simba escapes. Scar tells the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed in the stampede and steps forward as the new king, allowing his three hyena minions and the rest of their large pack to live in the Pride Lands.
Simba collapses in a desert and is rescued by Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog, who are fellow outcasts. Simba grows up in the jungle with his two new friends, living a carefree life under the motto “hakuna matata” (“no worries” in Swahili). Now a young adult, Simba rescues Timon and Pumbaa from a hungry lioness, who turns out to be Nala. She and Simba reunite and fall in love, and she urges him to return home, telling him that Pride Lands have become a drought-stricken wasteland under Scar’s reign. Feeling guilty over his father’s death, Simba refuses and storms off. He then encounters Rafiki, who tells him that Mufasa’s spirit lives on in Simba. Simba is visited by the ghost of Mufasa in the night sky, who tells him that he must take his rightful place as king. Realizing that he can no longer run from his past, Simba decides to return to the Pride Lands.
Aided by his friends, Simba sneaks past the hyenas at Pride Rock and confronts Scar, who had just struck Sarabi. Scar taunts Simba over his role in Mufasa’s death and backs him to the edge of the rock, where he reveals to him that he murdered Mufasa. Enraged, Simba pins Scar to the ground and forces him to reveal the truth to the rest of the pride. Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Zazu, and the lionesses fend off the hyenas while Scar, attempting to escape, is cornered by Simba at the top of Pride Rock. Scar begs for mercy and attempts to blame the hyenas for his actions; Simba spares his life, but orders him to leave the Pride Lands forever. Scar attacks his nephew, but Simba manages to toss him from the top of the rock. Scar survives the fall, but is attacked and killed by the hyenas, who overheard his attempt to betray them. Afterwards, Simba takes over the kingship as rain begins to fall. He also makes Nala his queen.
Later, with Pride Rock restored to its usual state, Rafiki presents Simba and Nala’s newborn cub to the assembled animals, continuing the circle of life.
The Lion King Movie Review:
A monument to Hollywood excess; the greatest visual effects spectacle since Avatar
The new Lion King is like a deeply triggering and very expensive episode of Planet Earth narrated by Childish Gambino, here to traumatise a whole new generation of viewers. Falsely described as a live-action remake, the film is, more accurately, a photorealistic animated demo reel for times to come, when actors and emotion are rendered obsolete, and our entertainment needs are facilitated by one corporation trapped in a circle of life of its own making.
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. The story is still engaging, though, but it always has been, ever since it was called Hamlet. The new Lion King, I’m afraid, is tonally and visually similar to director Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book – a quasi-realistic fantasy in which animals (sort of) talk, but display none of the magic this very basic concept of talking animals demands.
That being said, The Lion King is perhaps the greatest achievement in visual effects storytelling since Avatar – and distractingly so. 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.
The Lion King script, now credited to veteran Disney scribe Jeff Nathanson, hits the exact same beats, but with an unmistakable deadness in the eye. 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 cast, it must be said, is very good; especially Donald Glover as the adult Simba (who only arrives an hour into the film) 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. Sometimes they jog. And for some baffling reason (I’ll bet it was to do with the animation), 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’.
As an experiment, try watching some of these musical numbers (they’re available on YouTube) with the volume turned off, and you’d notice this strange lack of flair, especially because the facial animation, despite everyone’s best efforts, is still quite iffy. It’s certainly less expressive than Andy Serkis’ recent Netflix film, Mowgli.
The Lion King, like the Jungle Book, is deeply ingrained in my mind – the natural side-effect of having seen it close to 200 times as a child, on a VHS tape that was showing visible signs of wear and tear. It was also my first introduction to the concept of death; the idea that a person – and I thought of Mufasa as a person – could simply cease to exist, in a moment, without having a say in the matter. This was massively unfair, and very scary. The only time Favreau’s film came close to evoking the same emotion was during Mufasa’s death scene, but I’d imagine this is more because of my relationship with the Lion King than anything that the film does.
This scene, like so many others in the movie, mimics the original with the sort of blind adoration that betrays the spirit with which Disney used to operate in the past. ‘Inspired’ by Favreau’s vision, composer Hans Zimmer has essentially remade his glorious, Oscar-winning original score. He even brought back the same conductor, the same orchestrator, and the same arranger. His iconic music cues have the power of immediately triggering memories, so in that regard, they succeeded.
After having seen all of Disney’s recent remakes – several of them very recently – 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. Of course, Disney would like to count on your patronage. And you’re sort of compelled to check these movies out anyway; purely out of nostalgic curiosity, if anything. 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.