Jon Favreau is having quite the year in 2019. Starring in both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, he’s certainly reaping rewards for his work and his year is not done just yet as his CGI-adaptation of The Lion King finally roars into theaters this weekend.
Essentially, Favreau created a visual-effects laden shot-for-shot remake of the beloved Disney animated classic. For those who don’t know the story, the film follows a lion-cub prince named Simba, who is eager to follow in the pawprints of his father Mufasa as the great king of the Pride Lands. After witnessing the death of his father, Simba runs away from his destiny only to return to see his birthright tainted by his sinister uncle Scar and sets out to take back his homeland and take his rightful place as king.
I went into this with somewhat tame expectations considering that the appeal of most of the live-action adaptations Disney has produced over the years has either been lost on me or hasn’t piqued my interest. I came out relatively un-phased and overall un-excited by Favreau’s CGI remake, thinking I could have watched the original animated classic on television and been rewarded with a slightly higher degree of satisfaction. It’s not boring, but it’s redundant and practically pointless when you look at the finished product.
There are some moments that genuinely honor the spirit of the original film and some moments just felt like they were cheaply downgraded, in the sense that this version knew it couldn’t pull off the splendor and grandeur of feats from the animated version and that dulled the overall visual appeal, which is still spectacular but essentially that is all that this movie has going for it! Jeff Nathanson adds a few minor wrinkles to the story here and there for the sake of refreshment but nothing new is brought to the table; it’s all visual aesthetic and nothing beneath the surface.
The vocal talents should be commended for giving their characters the only degree of personality in this vast computer-generated ocean of repetition. Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, John Oliver, Alfre Woodard, John Kani, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre, Florence Kasumba and James Earl Jones are altogether decent.
The camerawork by Caleb Deschanel is rather positive, Hans Zimmer’s music is excellent as usual, Adam Gerstel and Mark Livolsi’s editing is fine, James Chinlind’s production design is vivid, Vlad Bina and Helena Holmes’ art direction is impeccable, and visually this movie is breathtaking but beyond what you see there is hardly anything worth taking away from this version of The Lion King that hasn’t been done before.
Once again Jon Favreau should take comfort in knowing that he had involvement in a cinematic endeavor that will certainly pay off for him but once again Disney made a pointless endeavor to make a live-action rendition of a classic that did not need to be made. The Lion King that was released in 1994 will always have a special place in my heart but this 2019 remake, though beautiful and honors the original, will go down reinforces my belief that some movies don’t need to be remade.