Friday, July 26, 2019

The Lion King (2019)

There was a line, delivered in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I don’t know that it was meant to be important, but it stood out for me.  As said by the Federation President, “Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing.”  It could have been an insignificant part of a monologue, most of which we wouldn‘t get to hear.  Either way, there have been a few times in my life that have illustrated it perfectly.  The remake of The Lion King is one such example.

The 1994 version was an animated classic.  It was about a young lion, Simba, who watched his father die.  In reality, it was his uncle’s fault.  However, this evil Uncle, Scar, convinced Simba that Mufasa’s death was really the young boy’s fault, thus leading Simba to exile himself.  In so doing, he meets Pumbaa and Timon, a warthog and meerkat, respectively.  As an adult, an old friend, Nala, discovers that Simba is still alive.  She convinces Simba to return and overthrow Scar, who has taken over the throne.  Thus, The Circle of Life is complete.

This movie follows the same basic premise.  Many of the songs and lines are present in both movies, as are all of the main characters.  It’s a spectacle, to be sure.  I left the theater entertained, but I was asking one question:  Why was a remake necessary?   The Lion King was a great movie that will be remembered by many as such.  There’s no reason to do this other than to show off the CGI.  You could have done that with any movie.  You don’t need to remake a classic.

This isn’t to say it’s a total waste.  John Oliver stood out for me as Zazu.  (Between this and Wonder Park, Oliver seems to do well with voice work.)  It was also probably a given that James Earl Jones would return as Mufasa.  There were also bits of the animation that seemed to work well.  This doesn’t counter the fact that many of the other elements didn’t seem better than the original.  Scar, on the whole, was less of a villain to me than in the original.  He just didn’t seem as menacing.  Much of this had to do with the animation and isn’t meant to say Chiwetel Ejiofor did anything wrong.  After all, he does have Jeremy Irons to live up to, which isn‘t easy, given the role.

To me, this is the big problem.  The Lion King is enough of a legend that people who have seen both versions will constantly compare the two.  It’s almost impossible for this version to exceed that expectation.  Even if it were to hit every mark perfectly, it’s still not the original.  Simba truly does have a big paw print to fill.


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