29th Jul2019

‘The Lion King’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Billy Eichner | Written by Jeff Nathanson | Directed by Jon Favreau


The Lion King is the latest Disney classic to receive the digital remake treatment after Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book and Aladdin. All earning above and beyond a billion dollars at the box office — utilising photorealistic animated technology and a full-fledged cast of acting superstars. And with The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau behind the camera, Disney is all but assured of entering the billion-dollar box office club once again; however, the critical assessment might not be what Disney will be expecting.

The Lion King verges very close on a complete and utter disaster with only a handful of positives that pull it through. The biggest compliment any viewer can give Favreau’s film is the visual style. It looks breath-taking throughout. The level of detail absorbed in the photorealistic animation is nothing short of extraordinary. Viewers will be left with their jaw firmly dropped on the ground with how realistically the character designs are brought to life. The setting, in particular, looks stunning. Granted the colour grading is slightly too dull and mundane and not quite the colourful, exuberant vividness found in the original animation, however, audiences will no doubt be transported to Africa as if they were there themselves.

The detail in hair fibres and sand alone are incredible, but a film cannot solely rest on style and avoid substance and here is where the problems arise. Favreau’s film is emotionally flat throughout. The Lion King manages to fluff its bravado and prowess in both the opening and climax. It is unimaginable that a film that has pre-existing material of the exact same sequences that is proven to cause chills and goose bumps fails to craft a compelling sequence with swagger or captivating emotional pull. The film is continuously and continually wanting to cut away and never linger on the world, or specifically the heartfelt sequences that occur, resulting in no suspense or intrigue. It is far too swift and far fast-paced for its own good. Every scene is brushed past, almost as if it is trying to cut corners and rush itself like a giddy child to the climactic finale, of which is equally rushed and bland with no intensity.

The pacing is frantic to a point where it obliterates all fun and entertainment. Infamously thirty minutes longer than its original, yet while watching, the audience will not have many ideas where those extra bits of fat are found with the film only having a two-act structure of sorts. It has the first act and third with nothing in between. The gorge sequence is the most unambiguous indication of this. The Lion King is comprised of two parts split before and after — there is nothing in between with heart, flavour, or entertainment that suffices to have to wait for that climactic final duel.

It is surprising with how bland and empty the story is, but at least the audience can find solace in the delightful voice cast? Sadly not, unfortunately. The voice cast is subpar aside from the partnership of Rogen and Eichner that has perfect balance with beautiful comedic nature. Everything else is one again bland and tiresome. Villain Chiwetel Ejiofor is terrific. He brings to life a wonderfully slimy and delightfully evil villain, but everything around him is ordinarily flat. Donald Glover and Beyoncé are both equally underwhelming and off with zero chemistry and non-existent verbal screen presence. Glover’s voice performance feels as if it is every first take each time, and Beyoncé does not have the talent to suffice in this particular industry, acting with little personality and range.

It is becoming seemingly clear that this new age of digital recreation of Disney beloved classics is slowly waning on audiences. It might not seem that way with every latest entry hitting the target goal of a billion dollars. However, be assured with each dull and mundane release, the style will always take precedence over any substance, and with that audiences will be repeatedly treated to the same regurgitated property each time.

The Lion King is in cinemas now.


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