Disney is getting better at live action adjustments – a little bit.
That may seem strange to say about a powerful studio that has had more than eighty years of hits and now owns much of Hollywood's total output. But even with its legendary history and successful animated films as direct templates, Disney made three attempts in February to produce a remake of live action that is not a half-baked bad idea for a salary.
To be honest, the 2019 remake of The lionking exceeds viewable. It is wonderful to see how a slim piece of technology – such as a new iPhone or a compact micro-scale laptop – is also beautiful to the eye. The technical team that director Jon Favreau has deployed to create his talking, singing, photo-realistic lions and breathtaking African landscapes, offers the public something completely new to watch. Every piece of grass, breath of animal breath and footprint in the sand are perfectly displayed. The CGI level is a technological leap forward for films that resemble what we have seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in 2018 or avatar in 2009.
But where Spider Vers had heart and emotion, looked at the new Lion King looks more like seeing avatar the first time. Viewers will undoubtedly be amazed by the spectacle, and culture will undoubtedly tell a lot about the work that has been recorded in this film. Given how much money this remake is on schedule to make, it's very likely that, very much like that Avatar, Lion King will produce a new wave of stylistic imitators. But does it offer something new or lasting to the cultural conversation, apart from a handful of new Beyoncé tracks for which we don't have to falsify Tidal? Builds on the animated original from 1994 or gives it a new twist on it Hamletbased on storyline? Not so much.
The story is the same as it once was. Young lion Simba (JD McCrary as a cub, Donald Glover as an adult) is the future king of Pride Rock, a vast land ruled by his parents Mufasa (James Earl Jones, returning to his role of the original animated film) and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). When Simba & uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) fooled him that he was responsible for Mufasa's death, Simba ran away and matured in the jungle with his new friends Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen). His childhood friend Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph in childhood, Beyoncé as an adult) comes looking for him years later, so that he can challenge Scar and take back his rightful place as king of Pride Rock. John Oliver (Zazu), Florence Kasumba (Shenzi) and Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari) complete the voting talent.
The vocal performances are perfect, which is more than can be said for Disney & # 39; s other 2019 live action remakes, Aladdin and Dumbo. But it is also to be expected when you throw up talented actors with the mechanical copying of an existing film. None of these artists had the task of creating new characters or making the classic film. They just had to repeat what had already been done – literally, in the case of James Earl Jones, who rolled back into the studio to redefine the lines he had already delivered perfectly in & # 39; 94. The Shenzi hyena gets slightly more lines (although not an improved character or a significant role in the story), and Timon and Pumbaa are given slightly more comic things, whether written or collected through the improvacities of Eichner and Rogen. But one of their thrown lines touches hard. Towards the end of "Hakuna Matata", when the Warthog meerkat duo is ready to finish, Glover & # 39; s Simba begins to give its own twist to a few notes of the song. Timon moans: "Oh great, he is riffs. "
Deliberately or not, this complaint about a few seconds of spontaneity in a movie that desperately could have used some original riffs of its own (aside) of the glossy new soundtrack song "Spirit" feels deep meta. The 1994 Lion King is a almost universally loved film from Disney & # 39; s animation renaissance. Popular culture did not call for a remake. It is hard to understand the logic behind doing one, apart from the expected huge payout, of course.
Disney even went back to that source once. 2004 & # 39; s The Lion King 1 1/2 tells the story of the original film again, but from the perspective of Timon and Pumbaa, with Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella coming back to tell the characters they have produced. For a direct-to-video sequel, it was fairly well received at that time; Variety called it one "Smart retelling." It would be nice to see even that level of thinking and creative ambition in these extremely expensive remakes. (The production budget on this Lion King is estimated at $ 250 million.) They would feel less at obvious, cynical cash grabs, make money from millennial nostalgia and more on films with a real artistic plan or purpose.
At least it's a chance for Disney to show off its current technological standard. As impressive as The lionking however, it also resembles the weaknesses of the current photo-realistic CGI. Although it is a near-shot-for-recording remake of the original, this version is from The lionking lacks much of the emotion and expressiveness that makes people come back to the first. Perhaps one of the most affective moments of animation in the 20th century is the way in which Simba & # 39; s ears lie flat and his eyes open wide when he sees the wildebeest storm in the moments before Mufasa is killed. The fear in his eyes is completely clear.
The lionking 2019 currently has the right music signals and an incredibly realistic rush. But real lions don't seem to like the way cartoons can go, and at the equal moment in the new movie, Simba hardly seems to respond to the situation. And the more imaginative, playful and experimental moments of the original have been erased in the same way in favor of animals that surround and look like nature – documentary recordings. During the "Hakuna Matata" song, Pumbaa is not happy on the belly flopping into a lagoon, nor is Simba clumsy trying to swing in after him. While Nala and Simba supposedly carry the last notes of "I can't wait to be king", their mouths are hardly open. But hey, she sure look like real lions. This lack of agility weighs the film heavily and raises the question again: "Why so & # 39; n slavish remake in a medium that does not fully translate the glory of the original?"
It is hard to imagine that millennials, or even Gen-Xers, choose to show their children this version of the film instead of the animated original. But 20 years later the score and the soundtrack are still convincing (although half of the rogue song "Be Prepared" ended up stuck somewhere in a warehouse) and since the script is still largely unchanged, everything worked relatively proportionately the first time. worked here works again. Someone who has never seen the original version could probably enjoy this strictly inferior clone. But why should they?
Ultimately, like avatar, this newest version of The lionking is likely to leave more of a print the way Hollywood makes films about pop culture as a whole. But the good thing about it The lionking is that Disney is shows improvement with each of 2019's live action remakes. The trailer for the company's next live action is being restarted, Mulan, looks undressed and promising, and the casting for it The little Mermaid, along with hiring true musical director Rob Marshall at the helm, and Lin-Manuel Miranda to consult Alan Menken about the music is a much better sign than anything in the neighborhood Dumbo, Aladdinor The lionking. The new Lion King will earn a lot of money, and hopefully part of that money can be used to make films with more artistic integrity, narrative ambition and bare reason to exist. That's the Circle of Life – or at least the Circle of Hollywood.