Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Lion King


The 1994 hand-drawn animated version of The Lion King is nearly perfect.  The animation is beautiful, with most of it having a 3D look.  The characters are great and the voice acting by Matthew Broadrick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan LaneErnie Sabella, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin all give those characters a very distinctive sound.  The music, which effectively pulls at our emotions, is so wonderful that it is like another character in the movie.

The only part of the original film that I did not like as much is the musical number "I just can't wait to become King."  This sequence is drawn in a 2D style like a classic Saturday morning cartoon.  Although it isn't a particularly bad sequence, its target audience seems to be just for kids.

The 2019 remake has many of the qualities that made the original good, but it also is lacking in many areas.  The insistence that everything be photorealistic means that the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it also means that the characters are far less expressive than their hand-drawn counterparts.  For example, the character of Scar had charisma in the original, but in the remake he just comes across as mean.  I don't think that the voices are as stylish either, although Seth Rogan does a good job as Pumbaa.  Why they didn't use the original cast?  Only Jame Earl Jones reprises his role.

The music had a powerful impact on the original.  It is strangely more subdued in the remake.  The star of the new movie, and by far the best reason to see it, is the computer animation.  It is a sight to behold.

Hand-drawn animation is expensive, so the original at 88 minutes feels slightly too short.  It is a very compact movie with scenes and dialog taking no more time than they need to in order to convey the story.  The remake is 30 minutes longer, with extra and more mature dialog everywhere.  Many of the scenes are longer.  Some of this is nice, but parts of it also feel unnecessary.  The final confrontation with Scar is too long and gives the impression of being more violent.

There are little things done in the original that weren't done in the remake, like Pumba picking up Simba with his horns, or Pumba getting stuck under a tree root while being chased by Nala.  I found myself wondering if this was just a technological limitation of the computer animation?

Should you see the 2019 remake of the Lion King?  Absolutely.  It is a wonderful movie to look at.  At times I felt like I was watching a beautiful nature show that just happens to be The Lion King.  However, the original is a better overall experience.

Rating:

The Lion King (1994):  A.
The Lion King (2019):  B+.

The Lion King (2019) has just a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars.

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