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Musings on The Lion King

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I don’t quite know how to score this one. The Lion King is either amazing or meh depending on what you want from it.

If you just want a nostalgia trip and will appreciate a pretty faithful replication of the original, then it’s fricken amazing. If you, like me, want to see a new spin on something you’ve seen dozens of times before, you might leave the cinema feeling … indifferent.

You might walk away thinking, was remastering The Lion King worth it?

The first thing you notice when the film opens is that the animation, for the most part, is absolutely awesome. They’ve done an amazing job recreating life-like characters from their cartoon counterparts. You cannot deny that The Lion King simply looks beautiful.

But going for photo-realism has its limitations. Since most animal mouths don’t work like human mouths, whenever any of the animals sang, the whole number looked and felt stiff. And while certain scenes still had me holding back a tear or two, they didn’t quite carry as much weight as in the original because a real lion’s face can’t convey the emotion cartoon Simba could. But since I was familiar with what the movie wanted me to feel, I could easily overlook this.

My biggest gripe with the film is that it’s almost shot for shot, word for word. Including some camera work that looks awful recreated realistically. Having said that, I know some people who loved the complete predictability of the film. They loved knowing the lines and singing along with the songs. I have to admit that the trip down memory lane was both fun and impressive. So am I just being fussy over not having anything new to chew on?

Okay, so there were a few minor tweaks to the dialogue. Let me talk about Timon and Pumba. Oh man, Timon and Pumba were great. If you, like many Disney fans, are well versed with the dialogue of the original Lion King, there are a couple of great comedic moments where Seth Rogan and Billy Eichner changed things up a bit.

They gave well known scenes a beautifully fresh touch. They were the best part of the film, hands down. Better than the original duo, in my humble opinion. And maybe that was because they managed to surprise me the most. It’s hard to laugh at 25-year-old jokes, so I am very happy they were allowed to ad lib some of their lines.

On the subject of actors, the voicing was amazing all round. After watching the trailer I was worried Donald Glover was going to sound monotonous the entire way through, but nope. He was amazing. Beyonce was amazing. The child voice actors were amazing. John Oliver played Zazu beautifully, and Chiwetel Ejiofor made me forget about Jeremy Irons.

Except the bit where my favourite song from the original was butchered. Be Prepared was the one part I actually wanted to see recreated (maybe minus the nazi inferences), but it was probably the only scene that was dramatically different.

Despite everything, it was actually pretty cool to see The Lion King on the big screen. I was born in 1994, so I completely missed that experience.

But once it’s out of theatres and on Blu-ray, if someone said to you, “Let’s watch The Lion King!” Would you pick up the 1994 original, or would you pick up this one?

I, personally, would pick the original.

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