When it was mentioned that a live action version of Disney’s The Lion King was coming out a lot of people got excited because this was one of the biggest and most popular movies that the house of mouse ever came out with. The soundtrack alone was enough to bring some people to tears and the overall story of Simba and his quest to regain his place in life was something that left people with the desire to watch the movie over and over. David Ehrlich of IndieWire seems to echo a lot of individual reviews of the movie though he does go a little far by calling the movie a ‘stain’ upon the reputation of the animated version. It’s all too true that so far as live action remakes go, the Disney films that have come out throughout the years have kind of a hit and miss track record since Cinderella was pleasant but not quite as magical, Aladdin has been said to be enchanting, and Beauty and the Beast was actually thought to be quite magical. So where did The Lion King go wrong?
Even Dano Nissen of Variety seems to think that there’s a serious distance between what was brought out in the animated version and the live action showing. In some ways it was more like a nature documentary with a few funny and dramatic moments put in than an actual Disney movie. Normally I could care less about critics and what they say as I tend to believe the opposite, but in this case they might have a pretty decent point. The level of excitement that was felt going into this movie was still felt by some as they exited the theater as point of view is of course a very important aspect when it comes to a person enjoying a movie. But overall it does sound as though The Lion King was all roar and no substance since the animated version is still considered to be the true king.
Michael Blackmon of BuzzFeed is at least fair in his estimation since it’s true, there were some redeeming qualities to the movie that made it somewhat enjoyable for some people. The cinematography, the realism, and the whole idea that it was in fact the same classic was what some people appreciated. There’s no doubt about it that the story was easy to follow as it was in 1994, but it is kind of confusing to think that the realistic version would be anything other than a documentary-style movie that was meant to be based off of a classic that continues to reign. It’s frustrating really considering that a lot of us remember back in the day when The Lion King was still an enjoyable movie that, despite being animated, was such a masterpiece of cinema that we couldn’t help but be amazed. There was no shame in watching it over and over, especially since it delivered on the laughs and the feels in such a big way that trying to think how it could get any better was virtually impossible.
It still doesn’t seem possible sadly. There’s not much to be said about this other than that even an all-star cast couldn’t do much to bring this movie out of the doldrums. With the massive talent that was amassed for this movie one would think that it would be able to live up to the massive hype that’s been built up throughout the last several months. The critics were no doubt ready and willing to be wowed, but instead it seems as though they were almost put to sleep. That’s hard to say about such a classic movie, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine that such a thing could possibly happen. The Lion King has for well over two decades been a story that, upon being animated, was something that we remembered as kids and idolized as we were growing up. The characters were rich and vibrant, the voice actors were amazing, and quite honestly the story was epic in a way that couldn’t possibly be matched at that time, and apparently can’t be matched now. It seems cynical and a little mean, but the truth hurts sometimes it would seem, and while the critics aren’t paid to be nice and cuddly at all times there are moments when they seem to hit the nail on the head finally.
The reviews are in, that much is evident, and the word is that The Lion King is thus far not a movie that benefited from going to live action. Maybe this will be a lesson to Disney that not every animated feature they possess needs a remake, and that some things can possibly be left as they were and remain just as popular. It’s a lesson that might go unheard unfortunately.