BEIRUT: It seems the Disney live-action formula continues its hit or miss streak all the while concreting its box office numbers and cash flow, which seems to be the only thing that the House of Mouse cares about.
Gone are the days when Disney films that followed Walt Disney’s statement, “For every laugh, there should be a tear,” and gone are the days when Disney films actually left a mark within your soul.
Now, it's about money and a faux-nostalgia that only makes movie-goers compare the remake to the original and not in a complimentary way at all.
The Lion King, now directed by Jon Favreau, attempts to give those critical to Disney’s latest endeavor what they want – a practically shot-for-shot remake of the classic animated film that was the highlight of Disney’s Renaissance back in the 1990s.
Yet, the strategy here completely falls apart.
Though the film is exactly like the original when it comes to the visuals, it completely ignores the original films three main elements: pace, heart, and magic.
Favreau’s re-envisioning jumps through the events as fast as a cheetah’s sprint, giving time to random moments, like the mouse promenading across multiple terrains to finally reach Scar’s paw or a lengthy journey for Simba’s fur as it reaches Rafiki.
Whereas the moments that mattered, Simba recognizing Nala, Simba’s heart-broken monologue to his dead father (this one is completely taken out of the film), Simba’s crying for help as Mufasa’s cold body lays before him, among others – those moments feel rushed and lose all their weight.
Disney’s animated classic was filled with color and emotion and this is why it has remained with us for decades.
The musical numbers are as bland as can be due to the film’s push towards photorealism and grounding the film in a “live-action” setting.
Watching Simba’s song, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” you can’t help but feel its emptiness and lack of spectacle because all Simba and Nala are doing is running through the savanna as they try to lose Zazu.
No colors. No comedic moments. Animals just being animals – and herein lies the problem. The Disney magic was not there, the emotion was not there, and thus sacrificing the film’s heart.
Now, the film was not all bad, as some proper decisions were made in regards to casting, and some even regarding the narrative.
Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen were the perfect recasting for Timon and Pumbaa, respectively, and gave the dynamic duo a new flair that worked well.
John Oliver’s casting as Zazu also adds a fun element to the character, but Rowan Atkinson’s vocal performance still resonates strongly in comparison.
The return of James Earl Jones as Mufasa also gives the film some nostalgic gravitas, but not enough to keep the audience there on a positive note.
Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Donald Glover though monsters in the music industry do absolutely nothing to the characters of Nala and Simba, in fact, Beyonce just sounds like Beyonce and this becomes a massive distraction during the film.
Narratively, some of the decisions like, making the hyenas their own entity and not Scar’s minions actually add a nice dynamic to the film; also allowing us to see moments like Nala’s escape from the Pride Lands, and Simba’s interaction with some of the animals that lived with Timon and Pumbaa are good moments.
In terms of visuals, one has to applaud Favreau for being able to capture such realism but again this strips the film’s magic away and ends up feeling like a double-edged sword.
Walking out of the movie theater, a feeling of betrayal will wash over you, like you’ve somehow cheated on a best friend by hanging out with another.
Nothing will ever replace the original films, and even though some remakes have been great, the originals will always hold a place in our hearts for some more-so than others, and we will forever be known as the purists.
This new Disney Era will, once it is done, fade away as time passes, and it will be forgotten like an old story your grandparents used to tell you, thankfully we will always be able to revisit the Renaissance via blu-rays or digital in order to wash away that remake after taste.
The Lion King is now playing across all theaters in Lebanon, but for the best visual experience, IMAX at Vox Cinemas is always recommended
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