‘Remember who you are.’
Arguably, my writing this review is a needless as this remake. My review is needless because you probably already know whether you’re going to see it, perhaps guided by your love of the 1994 animation or by the fact it’s the summer holidays and you’ve got bubbas in need of entertaining/distracting. This remake is needless as it is essentially a shot-for-shot remake, supposedly ‘live action’ but more like photorealism.
It’s looks good, the lions fur in particular has a gorgeous quality and baby Simba may be one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. But, with the story being 95% the same, it’s hard not to think of it as a bit of a waste of resources. How the film’s $260 million budget could have been used to tell a new story as opposed to a familiar one in a new format.
It’s also a format that comes with it’s own set of problems that weren’t present in the original film. By favouring a semblance of realism (yes, I do realise I’m writing about a film with talking animals…) some elements of the fantasy that made the film so beloved are sacrificed. Take a look here at this comparison between the 1994 and 2019 version of the teaser trailer. One thing that is noticeable straight away is the colour palette being significantly reduced, taking on a duller and less engaging quality.
Another aspect is how expressionless the animals are in this new version, they lack the range of characterisation usually seen in a Disney movie – this is especially problematic as the film relies completely on anthropomorphism. It’s harder to connect with the characters and results in a storytelling format that is noticeably tell not show.
It’s clear that Disney are taking a lot of pride (get it?) in what they have achieved visually, they have recreated an entire landscape which is occasionally rather wondrous to look at. But they’ve retold a story that didn’t require retelling.
The end result feels a lot like a soulless money grab which, at 2 hours long, is 32 minutes longer than the original. Looks good but totally needless.
The Lion King is in UK cinemas now.