So, I don’t normally do movie reviews. But I’ll make an exception. The Lion King has been my favorite movie for 25 years. Few things in my life have been my favorite thing for as long as this movie has been #1 in my heart. I’m saying this because I want you to know I am 100% completely biased towards the animated Disney movie. I also want you to know what I LOVE the raw story on its own, and that is why I long to see the Broadway production and wanted to watch this new 2019 version.
When I first saw the trailer for the “live action” version of The Lion King I was excited, but also very worried. As time drew on, the feelings went back and forth about whether or not I was happy this movie was going to be made.
Last night, I took the leap and rented it. This review will have spoilers, lots of spoilers.
If you don’t want to read spoilers I’ll go ahead and say I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars. If you haven’t seen The Lion King 2019 version and are interested in it, you probably should go watch it… but don’t expect it to match the animated version.
If you want to see exactly WHY I give this movie 3 stars, keep reading but know there are spoilers.
Setting visuals for the 2019 version of The Lion King are pretty spectacular. From the beginning scenes it’s hard to believe you’re not watching real animals. The opening scene had me believing that I was watching real animals coming together… but then it cut to the scene where we meet Scar and I was completely pushed out of feeling the movie. It was a constant back and forth for me as far as the quality of what I was seeing. It’d be 110% amazing in one scene then automatically cut to a -10% WTF in the next. I was constantly being thrown off by what I was seeing since it was perfect one minute and awful the next. The aerial footage was almost always breathtaking, but getting up close with the characters and their immediate setting had me either loving or hating what I was seeing.
There were a few scenes in particular that threw me off visually… but the absolute worst was when Simba is talking to Mufasa in the storm clouds. The lightning creating flashes of an almost lion face was NOT acceptable! It was a neat idea yes, but I feel that it just didn’t work. There were no features in the flashes of lightning that made it stand out to me as Mufasa, there was no storm cloud rolling in moment, there was no fading out of Mufasa. One of the best scenes in the original movie was slaughtered.
My favorite scenes visually were the opening and when Simba is chasing Rafiki through the trees. There was so much going on in these scenes yet it looked like they got the attention they deserved! I could watch the opening of the movie 100 more times.
Setting Visuals: 3
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Character appearance was also very hit or miss.
Mufasa was my absolute favorite character visually in this movie. He looked like the perfect wise and strong head of the pride and I truly LOVE the way he looked. I was soooo hopeful upon seeing Mufasa that this movie was going to be great. Simba was cute as a cub and stood out well as an adult. Scar though… he looks beat up and angry but his look just felt wrong! There are actually wild lions that have full black manes, and I would have much rather seen Scar depicted as such rather than just a sick old lion. The Lionesses were incredibly disappointing for me to see… I could almost never tell them apart because they all looked EXACTLY the same. Sarabi was not grey and wise, she blended in with the rest, and even Nala looked just like the others after she grew up!
Timon I was good with, but Pumba… Pumba I get was supposed to look like a real warthog, but he looked awful and not friendly in the slightest! I had a hard time enjoying any scene with Pumba because it seemed so weird. The hyenas are also incredibly bad looking, I’m not even sure you could compare them to the original “trio” from the animated film, they had weird faces to help tell them apart but it just didnt have the same effect and was more weird than enjoyable to look at.
The thing is… these animals all look just like animals, they don’t have very good facial expressions so emotion for the characters is mostly just expressed through their ears! It’s like watching a Discovery Channel documentary with some music behind it.
Character Appearance: 3
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Actors for the movie had me more disappointed than pleased. I’m so so so so glad that they got James Earl Jones back for Mufasa! Though his voice was older, it was still an amazing fit for the character and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I also thought the voice of Timon was ok, there were a few times when his voice didn’t seem to fit the visual but for the most part it worked so I’m ok with it. Rafiki’s voice was just ok, he didn’t talk enough to get on my nerves but I’ll get to that later.
I absolutely hated Simba’s voice. As a cub or adult he just never sounded right, like he had the worst attitude or something. My next least favorite voice was Pumba, I like Seth Rogen but he just didn’t seem right for Pumba. I absolutely hated the dialogue of Timon and Pumba in this movie. They weren’t funny, and it seemed like they didn’t play well off eachether at all! Timon was irritating beyond belief most of the time and it really bugged me that he’d like break the 4th wall or make snide comments relating back to the other movie (fart joke). It was soooo disappointing to see what could’ve been the most humorous part of the movie smashed by the actors and terrible script.
Zazu…. don’t even get me started on that bird’s voice, I dreded every scene with him because his voice drove me nuts! I didn’t realize Zazu could get more annoying, but they definitely succeeded in this movie – his voice, lines, and even his look was just all wrong. Zazu was not brought to life well at all. Nala as a cub was ok, but I don’t think Beyonce was the right choice for her as an adult, it just didn’t fit right and ruined Nala for me. Shenzi also didn’t sound right, I really wish they would have brought back Woopi for her voice because it was more irritating than I can explain listening to her new attitude and voice in this movie.
Scar, at least he sounded like a broken down lion? I hated his voice, the way he talked just didnt feel like the actor was ever intending for those lines to actually make it into the movie… it felt like he didnt care or try. Maybe that was the goal, if so good job. I didn’t like it.
Actor Casting: 2
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The songs were probably the worst part of the whole movie. They changed almost every well known song in length, appearance, or sound and I was not impressed. At least most of the lyrics were the same. The opening song for ‘Circle of Life’ was ok, but it didn’t have enough passion… and every song there after followed the same suit. ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ was poor both visually and sound wise, it had no passion and felt forced! It was definitely not the fun song from the animated version. ‘Hakuna Matata’ was also poorly executed but at least the visuals were different in a good way unlike all the others. Then ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ was of course botched in both sound and visuals.
The absolute worst song in the live action movie though was ‘Be Prepared’… it had no life. It was bland, colorless, the lyrics were botched, and the visual scene for it was basically nothing! It absolutely broke the whole image of Scar and the hyenas. I wasn’t expecting them to do the march and salutes but SOMETHING representative of Scar leading the hyenas would have been appreciated.
The moments were the music was purely instrumental was ok. It usually (not always) sounded like you wanted it to, unfortunately these moments were few and short and were immediately overshadowed by another horrible song.
Songs/ Music: 1
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Truness to original story was fairly good. They changed almost all the lines from the animated movie. So if you were hoping to see Scar tell a mouse he’d “never see the light of another day” or see Rafiki chant “asante sana” you’ll be disappointed. At this point in my life I’ve seen the animated movie so many times I can recite it word for word…. so you can trust me that most of the script has changed.
Somehow, even with most of the script changed the underlying story is the same. Everything that I expected to happen plot wise did happen. The only thing that really stood out differently story wise was that the cubs weren’t chased as long by the hyenas, and that a whole pack of hyenas chased them rather than just the three. Also, the animals don’t stack up during ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ but I personally wasn’t expecting it to happen.
The characters from the animated version were all there except for the gopher that tells Mufasa there are hyenas in the Pridelands. Not sure why he was left out, but they unfortunately gave the line to Zazu. Interestingly enough there were actually a lot more animals than in the animated version, at Timon and Pumba’s oasis there were all types of animals they lived with! This was good and bad. Some of the animals were cute, others I felt were unnecessary to the story.
The only real relationship change is that the hyenas didn’t already work with Scar before he sang ‘Be Prepared’ like they appeared to in the animated version. Shenzi (who was horribly wrong anyway) was their leader and she bossed them around all over the place in the worst ways.
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The overal feeling of the story and the emotions were kind of all over the place.
I cried twice: During the scene where Mufasa is trying to save Simba and then climb up the gorge wall, and when storm cloud Mufasa was talking to Simba. I didn’t cry during the discovery of Mufasa being dead like I do in the animated version and I blame this on the lack of facial expressions for the animals. I also didn’t feel anything when Simba stepped in Mufasa’s paw print.
The feeling of most of the scenes with Mufasa and Simba were pretty close to accurate though. Simba’s “scolding” and other playful moments with Mufasa all felt right to me. It may just be because I was really happy with how Mufasa was potrayed, but nearly all the scenes with him in it felt right. The Timon and Pumba scenes just didnt feel the same. The family-ness of them and Simba, the humor was all lacking for me. I especially hated how they kept saying how pointless doing anything was, I don’t think they had the same awful attitude in the animated version – they lived happy care free lives not miserable don’t-care ones!
Feelings: 3 (I did cry twice)
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Overall, I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars. It has beautiful scenes and the animals looked like animals, really spectacular considering I think it was all CG. The lines and mannerisms of most characters changed, and the feeling wasn’t always there. I was incredibly disappointed by the movie, but I can see how it could be a good movie to those that haven’t seen the animated version two million times.
I do wonder though if the live action was more like the Broadway show than the animated one. Maybe I compared it wrong, but I haven’t seen the Broadway one.