The Lion King

"He looks quite tasty!"
7/10 - A faithful remake that looks beautiful but lacks the magic of the original.
Release Date: 
Friday, July 19, 2019
Written by: 

The Lion King is the latest Disney classic animation to get the live-action treatment.


After achieving success with his 2016 remake of The Jungle Book, which had a mix of live-action and CGI, Jon Favreau signed up for a new challenge - The Lion King - which consists of entirely photorealistic digital animals and environments.

Like the 1994 original, the film follows young cub Simba (voiced by JD McCrary), the son of the king Mufasa (James Earl Jones).

Mufasa's jealous brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has his eye on the throne, and so he kills Mufasa and banishes Simba from home so he can become king.

Meanwhile, Simba (now Donald Glover) makes new friends with meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and warthog Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and learns how to live a stress-free life in his new home.

The remake follows the exact same plot and scenes are basically in the same order, although some have been cut, tweaked, lengthened or shortened.

Others are completely the same, right down to the dialogue, or are a shot-for-shot recreation, like The Circle of Life opening sequence.

There are a few new scenes which were refreshing and more interesting to watch than the rehashed ones, so more of those would have been welcome.

The script borrows heavily from the original but there are a lot of dialogue changes for the comedy characters - Zazu (John Oliver), Timon and Pumbaa.

They get a mix of old and new jokes which have an inconsistent success rate.

Zazu wasn't particularly funny, but the banter between Pumbaa and the b**chy and camp Timon was highly amusing.

The hyenas used to have comedy value, but they have been completely overhauled.

Only the menacing Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) remains from the original, and she's backed up by new characters Kamari (Keegan-Michael Key) and Azizi (Eric Andre), who get some comedic opportunities.


The musical numbers have thankfully not been tinkered with too much, with the exception of Be Prepared, which is now unrecognisable.

And because the film is aiming for realism, it only allows movements that animals would do in the wild, meaning I Just Can't Wait to Be King had to be changed visually because it originally contained fantastical elements. It still works, but it's not quite as fun.

The visuals are breathtakingly stunning and so impressive you forget you're watching a digital animation, because it is so realistic.

However, because of this realism, the lions didn't express emotion in the same way the animated ones did, so the sadder moments, like Mufasa's death, don't hit quite so hard.

In addition, the animals' mouths and voices didn't always sync up flawlessly and some of the silly scenes, like Timon in drag, were sadly cut or changed.

It was a relief having Jones back to voice Mufasa, he is irreplaceable, and Rogen and Eichner were an excellent comedy duo and brought life to proceedings.

Beyonce was perfectly cast as Nala, who is more empowered this time around, like Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), while Glover was a fine Simba.

However, Ejiofor wasn't a patch on Jeremy Irons as Scar and Oliver wasn't as funny as Rowan Atkinson's Zazu.

This remake is faithful to the original and enjoyable to watch, but something felt off. It just didn't feel as exciting, entertaining or magical compared to its predecessor.

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