Trying to fall in love with film again.

Honestly? 'Lion King (2019)' didn't need to exist.

The Lion King (2019) - IMDbStory 

In the African pride lands, Mufasa rules alongside his wife Sarabi. The two have son, the heir apparent named Simba. Unbeknownst to them, the king's brother Scar is planning n assassination attempt to usurp the throne. After the death of his father (I would say spoiler alert but everyone knows the story by now) Simba runs away from his home and his responsibility but must make a choice, take his place on the throne and assume responsibility or turn his back on his home.

The story here isn't any different from the original when it comes to iconic movies like this, there isn't much that can be changed. There is some added backstory to Scar and Mufasa's relationship that gives insight into why Scar feels so much animosity towards his brother. Meaning that the story here is one that works. It's emotional and dramatic while also having moments of levity. (and really good songs).

Acting

This movie has a stellar cast. It stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver and James Earl Jones and each actor fits their character. Sarah Hailey Finn did a great job casting actors that reflect the characters. She is one of the many (emphasis on MANY) unsung heroes of this movie.

When Doland Glover was cast as Simba I was a little confused (for lack of a better word) as Matthew Broderick's voice was the voice I associated with Simba for so long but one thing I didn't expect was for their voice to be as similar as they are. While they don't sound the same, their voices have similar tones and because of that, it easy for me to associate his voice with the character. We see his version of Simba a lot more broken than Matthew Broderick's and that comes from Jon Favreau wanting us to see his trauma.

Chiwetel Ejiofor has the best performance in this movie and I actually prefer his performance in this movie to Jeremy Irons in the original. There is something sinister in the way both actors portray this character. The main difference in the two is the way Scar comes across. In the original, Scar is a lot more suave while he is a lot more brutal and manipulative. I was actually filled with a sense of dread when he was on screen. When I talk about good antagonists I talk about the fact that they are unpredictable and even though we all know how the story ends. He was thoroughly entertaining to watch.

Beyoncé's Nala casting was the biggest surprise of the movie as she isn't known as an actor much less a voice actor but she manages to hold her own. Beyoncé has a very distinct voice and when I heard it for the first time, I was really distracted, and it did take a few seconds for me to disassociate Beyoncé and Nala but once it happened, I was able to enjoy her performance. This version of Nala is a lot stronger than the original and that could be attributed to the fact that Beyoncé's voice has more weight to it than Moira Kelly's. She is a lot more present which makes me relate to her character more.

Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner play Timon and Pumba respectively. I put the two of them together as the two of their characters are a pretty much a package deal and their characters bring levity to the movie. My main issue with Timon and Pumba is the fact that they sometimes bring too much levity and break the continuity of the scene and this doesn't happen as much in this movie as the original (I also have to remember that this is a Disney movie). Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner recorded a lot of their lines together and while it's not glaringly obvious, you can tell. They both have great chemistry and bounce off each other really well and I wouldn't be surprised if some of their lines were improvised.

There is no one else that could've played Mufasa other than James Earl Jones and when it was announced that he was reprising his role, everyone on the internet including me let out a collective sigh of relief. He is Mufasa. Point blank PERIODT! And having him come back is really something special. There are a few lines that he says in this movie that are direct lifts from the original that sound different even though it's the same person saying them. The best way to describe James Earl Jones' voice is weighty. He says pretty much everything with reverence and it translates beautifully in this movie. You feel whatever emotion Mufasa feels because of the way James Earl Jones delivered his lines.

I also have to give a massive shoutout to all the other actors in this movie, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key and Eric Andre who play the hyenas Shenzi, Kamari and Azizi respectively. As well as John Kani who plays Rafiki, JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph who play young Simba and Nala respectively and John Oliver who is perfectly cast as Zazu.
    While this isn't a disadvantage per se, you can hear the difference in the way the actors read their lines. James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Alfre Woodard are all classically trained actors and that is evident in the way they project and carry their voices. In a behind-the-scenes video for 'The Prince of Egypt', Ralph Fiennes talks about isolating and projecting your voice when you're recording and that is something that the aforementioned actors do very well. When they speak I don't hear the actors, I only associate the voice with the character. However, when I hear Donald Glover or Beyoncé,  I got really distracted because I could only hear them rather than their characters.

    Writing/Direction

    If there was someone to direct a live-action Lion King, it's definitely Jon Favreau. The Jungle Book remake is my second favourite Disney live-action remake (after Beauty and the Beast) and is arguably the best live-action remake yet. He and the writers of that movie were able to take a movie with a pretty thin story and fill in the blanks which in turn makes it a better movie than the original (in my humble opinion)

    The issue with this movie is that the original is pretty much rock solid. A lot of live-action remakes fix continuity or logistical errors, but the original movie doesn't really have any of those issues. It's as close to perfect as we are gonna get and as Bill Condon said: "How do you remake a movie that is basically perfect." This is movie is one that seeks to answer that question.

    Jon Favreau did a great job of creating a film that feels just like the original. I wouldn't say it feels like a more updated version of the original though. It invokes the exact same feeling, but with a little less nostalgia.

    CGI/Set Design

    The CGI in this movie is incredible. I've seen tweets saying that the CGI doesn't look believable and while I see understand the sentiments I don't agree. This movie has the best CGI I've seen this year so far and I don't think anything will top it.

    I watched Jon Favreau's notes on a scene Vanity Fair video (that you can watch here) and he kept saying that the movie looked like a documentary. When I watched the video I hadn't seen the movie and I didn't really understand what he meant but after watching the movie that is the best way to describe the CGI in this movie.

    As someone who watches a lot of nature documentaries (shoutout to all the people who watch Planet Earth), I am very familiar with what the Savanah looks like and this movie looks just like that, even though it's been tweaked a little to fit the mythos of the movie. A lot of the establishing shots look like they have been taken from a documentary. In fact, the backgrounds are the most realistic things in this movie. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

    THE LION KING
    Still of Zazu, left, voiced by John Oliver, Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, and young Simba voiced by JD McCrary
    When the Jungle Book remake came out, there was one human character, Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli and because there is something/someone who is real, they become a point of reference for the audience. You don't have that in this movie. Even though you and I know what a lion looks like there was a degree of separation, maybe it's because I knew everything I was looking at was computer generated. I knew that the lions I was looking at while looking a lot like real lions (90% of the time) weren't real, hence why expressive eyes on an animal that doesn't register human emotion was easy to believe.

    The VFX supervisors Rob Legato and Adam Valdez, are the heroes of this film along with the hundreds of VFX artist who worked tirelessly. I can't list every single artist that worked on the movie, but if you go on IMDB and check this list you'll see hundreds of people who deserve to be recognised of their work on this movie.

    Score/Soundtrack

    The original Lion King has some of the most iconic movie music probably ever, with songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice and a score written by Hans Zimmer. When you have songs like Circle of Life and Can you feel the Love Tonight and singers like Donald Glover and Beyoncé, there was no way that the iconic songs weren't going to make it into the movie.

    One of my issues with the Aladdin remake was the way the songs were incorporated, for the first 30 minutes of the movies, the songs don't flow. The movie stops when the song starts and felt really awkward and clunky. That doesn't happen in this movie the score sets up the songs perfectly that way the transitions don't feel out of place.

    I have one complaint though. The Can You Feel the Love Tonight duet between Donald Glover and Beyoncé. It's a beautiful duet and has more to do with the director and VFX artists. The song clearly says can you feel the love TONIGHT, yet the scene takes place in the late afternoon. Ummm... for the song to use words like "evening" and "tonight" the sun has to go down but apparently, that's not a thing.

    One thing that surprised me was Billy Eichner's singing voice. I had no idea he could sing and he managed to hold his own next to Donald Glover who we all know can sing. When they sang together with Seth Rogen, their voices all blended together pretty well which was surprised me.

    While it's not part of the official soundtrack, Beyoncé released The Lion King: The Gift, which has movies inspired by the film and I really like it. This album is special for me in many ways, apart from the fact the sound is influenced by music from the continent, it also features artists from the continent as well as one of my favourite Beyoncé songs Bigger. When I listen to it, I'm filled with a sense of pride because some of my favourite Nigerian artists are on the album. (I'm Nigerian FYI)

    Apart from Bigger, this is my favourite song.

    Listen to it and tell me that this isn't a good song. I dare you

    Overall Thoughts. 

    When this movie ended I turned to my mum and said: "I liked it, but this movie didn't need to exist." And that sums up how I feel about this movie perfectly. I really enjoyed this movie, it hits all the story beats that the same one does and left me satisfied as a movie-goer. However, it did make me nostalgic. There was something that the original had that this one was lacking and I can't put my finger on what.

    This movie is almost a shot for shot recreation of the original, which is where the question of this movie's existence comes into question. If I wanted to watch the OG Lion King why don't I just watch the OG Lion King?

    I say this with every Disney live-action remake. Disney is damned if they do, damned if they don't. If the remake is too different from the original, people would argue that it taints the legacy of the first one but if it is too similar the validity of the remake comes into question. Disney has managed to manoeuvre that question pretty well and this is the first time I've actually wondered if the remake needed to exist and the answer to that question is a yes and a no. Even though this feels like a rehash of the original, this movie has pushed the boundaries of CGI and I'm excited to see what we do with it.

    All in all, I enjoyed seeing this movie. I sang along to all the songs, jokingly said Beyoncé?! out loud (not that loud) a la this gif

    Image result for beyonce meme gif

    and felt all of the emotion when Mufasa died. (It hurt when I first saw the movie 15 years ago and it still hurts now. Thank you, Disney, for rehashing childhood traumas)

    Now I'm going to listen to the soundtrack and Lion King: The Gift over and over again while watching comparison videos like this one.






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