Movie Review – ‘The Lion King’ (2019)

Hello everyone! 🙂

Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!

And here are we on the third and final entry of the Disney summer 2019 movie trilogy at the cinema (the first two being the 2019 remake of ‘Aladdin’ in May and ‘Toy Story 4’ in June). Today, it’s time to take a look at the 2019 remake of one of my favourite Disney movies ever made…‘The Lion King’!

‘The Lion King’ has a special place in my heart. I saw this movie when I was very young at the cinema on a school trip. The film was released in 1994. I loved everything about this movie when I first saw it from its animation; its story; the characters; the incredible music and songs and the epic feel of it all.

I’ve followed everything that was ‘Lion King’-related including the Disney read-along books for kids based on the film; seeing the sequels to the film including ‘The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride’ and ‘The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata’ and watching the ‘Timon and Pumbaa’ show on VHS as well as TV itself.

There is ‘The Lion Guard’ TV series that was made recently, but I’ve not seen that yet. I’ve also seen ‘The Lion King’ stage show in London back in 2010 with my parents. I found that an incredible experience, loving how they adapted the film for stage as well as the amazing musical numbers in it.

So when it came to a live-action remake of ‘The Lion King’ at the cinema in 2019, I couldn’t help be dubious. I mean this was a remake of a Disney film I loved watching since I was a kid. Considering the division of fans and audiences on these Disney remakes, there was some likelihood I wouldn’t like it.

Even when I watched preview clips of the movie and listened to the music soundtrack beforehand, I couldn’t help feel this 2019 remake wouldn’t match to the original. But despite that, I wanted to give this film a fair chance. There was always a possibility that I might enjoy the remake in a strange manner.

And after seeing the film at the cinema…Yeah! I actually enjoyed this new version of ‘The Lion King’. It’s not as good as the original no doubt, but I did come away enjoying it. There are issues I have with the remake, but for the most part I found that it did keep to what was in the original version I loved.

Even my Dad rated it highly after we came out of the cinema. He went on and on about how much he enjoyed seeing the film at the cinema and didn’t fall asleep. 😀 So if it made my Dad happy, then that must be a good thing. Mind you, it has been a while for him since he saw the original version. 😀

The 2019 remake is considered to be a live-action, though that’s not really the case here. It’s mainly CGI animals against photo-realistic backdrops. But then again, it would’ve been so tricky to control real wild animals like lions to act in front of a camera. Thus CGI animals count this as live-action here.

The film was directed by Jon Favreau…yes! That Jon Favreau! The guy who plays Happy Hogan in the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’! Gosh, he must’ve had a challenge to balance both directing this movie as well as play Happy in the ‘MCU’ at the same time – ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ the recent one.

Actually, Jon Favreau is no stranger to directing. He also directed ‘Elf’, ‘Zathura’ and the first two ‘Iron Man’ movies. He also starred in the 2003 ‘Daredevil’ film before doing Happy Hogan in the ‘MCU’. And he directed the 2016 remake of ‘The Jungle Book’ before he did ‘The Lion King’ remake.

In fact, that was what got Jon Favreau to direct ‘The Lion King’ remake because of ‘The Jungle Book’ remake. I haven’t seen that remake yet though we have got it on DVD (my parents and I need to watch that soon). But from watching ‘The Lion King’ remake, I can see why Jon Favreau was chosen.

The visuals for the life-like animals in ‘The Lion King’ remake are superb. You can believe that these are believable animals and not cartoony despite being CGI. You believe Simba is a real lion; you believe Timon is a real meerkat; you believe Pumbaa is a real warthog. It is all very impressive there.

Even from watching the shot-for-shot ‘live-action’ recreation of the opening scene featuring the ‘Circle of Life’ song, I couldn’t help be impressed. Especially with the animals who came to see the birth of baby Prince Simba when the wise monkey Rafiki held him high for all the animals of Africa to see.

For those of you who don’t know the story, ‘The Lion King’ is about young Prince Simba who wants to become king of the Pride Lands like his father Mufasa. But when his evil Uncle Scar kills Mufasa during a wildebeest stampede in a gorge, Simba believes he’s responsible and runs away from home.

During his exile, Simba befriends Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog, who show him the life of Hakuna Matata, meaning ‘no worries’. As Simba grows up to be an adult lion, he learns of his home decimated under the rule of King Scar and the hyenas and returns to reclaim the right as king.

Like I said, for the most part, everything seems to be in order in terms of how the story was told in the original cartoon film featured in the live-action film. There are a few structural and plot changes made, but seeing this remake was like knowing what would come next from seeing the original film.

The voice cast are generally good. Simba as a young cub is voiced by JD McCrary and as an adult is voiced by Donald Glover (who was in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’). Nala, Simba’s love-interest, as a young cub is voiced by Shahadi Wright Joseph and as an adult is voiced by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (also a singer songwriter that did her very own ‘Lion King’ album).

There’s Scar, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor (who was also in Doctor Strange) and Sarabi, Simba’s mother, voiced by Alfre Woodard (who was also in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’). There’s also Rafkiki the wise monkey, voiced by John Kani and Zazu the bird, voiced by John Oliver. And there’s Mufasa, Simba’s father, voiced by James Earl Jones, who did the voice for Mufasa in the 1994 animated film.

And yes! James Earl Jones did the voice for Darth Vader in the ‘Star Wars’ films. I was disappointed the three main hyenas weren’t called Shenzi, Banzai and Ed as in the original. They were Shenzi, Kamari and Azizi (voiced by Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key (who did ‘Toy Story 4’) and Eric Andre. What was wrong with Shenzi, Banzai and Ed? They were perfectly fine names for the hyenas!

There’s also Timon and Pumbaa, voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen. I’m afraid to say this but, I didn’t find the voices for Timon and Pumbaa in the remake as good as the ones in the original. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine. But in the original, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella made those characters. I also didn’t find Timon and Pumbaa funny in the remake as I found them in the original.

The songs and music were mainly good. Hans Zimmer, the composer of the original film came back to do music for the remake as well. Elton John and Tim Rice who did the songs for the original film also came back as well as Lebo M. who did the African choruses in the remake as well as the original.

I like the 2019 renditions of ‘Circle of Life’, ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ and ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. I was disappointed they didn’t have the song ‘Be Prepared‘ from the original. Well, they sorted of did but it feels short and doesn’t feel or sound like the original version which I’ve enjoyed.

I wish I could say the 2019 version of ‘Hakuna Matata’ was good. But it was ruined part-way through when the lyrics got changed. In the original, it went like this:

Pumbaa: (sings) “And I got downhearted.”
Timon: (sings) “How did you feel?”
Pumbaa: (sings) “Every time that I…”
Timon: (interrupts) “Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!”
Pumbaa: “Oh… sorry.”

That was funny for me when I saw it in the original version. But this is how the 2019 remake did it.

Pumbaa: (sings) “And I got downhearted,
Every time that I farted…” (stop singing; to Timon) “Are you gonna stop me?”
Timon: “No, I’m not! You disgust me!”

(feels uneasy) Yeah…if you’re one of those people who loved the original ‘Lion King’ and didn’t want anything changed in the lyrics of any of the songs like I did, you would’ve been disappointed. At least the original film was decent about Pumbaa’s farting. This remake version was…pretty embarrassing.

There’s also another potentially funny scene that got ruined part-way through (depending on your point of view). In the scene where our heroes needed to distract the hyenas, they all looked to Pumbaa who is an ideal mouth-watering obstacle. That was very funny once everyone looked at him.

But instead of doing the hula dance that Timon did in the original, Timon…(sighs)…Timon says the familiar opening lines to the song ‘Be Our Guest’ from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ before he and Pumbaa get chased by the hyenas. If you were like me, you cringed and found this funny at the same time. 😀

There was a tense scene that I liked in the movie though. It was when Nala tried to escape from Scar and the hyenas to go out and get some help away from the Pride Lands. I like this scene as it wasn’t in the original. Mind you, I wonder why Nala didn’t sing ‘Shadowland’ to say goodbye to her friends and family like she did in the stage show version. Although it would have been pretty distracting! 😀

Wow! I’ve said a lot about this movie. Overall, I found the 2019 remake of ‘The Lion King’ very decent. It’s not as good as the original version and it’s not as spectacular as the stage show. But for what it’s worth, I’m glad I saw the 2019 remake of ‘The Lion King’ and hope I’ll get to see it again soon.

Thanks for reading!

Bye for now!

Tim. 🙂

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