Director: Jon Favreau
Screenplay by: Jeff Nathanson and Brenda Chapman
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it is a loud consensus of Disney fans when the conglomerate’s new wave of remakes has flooded onto the big screens once more. From Maleficent to Cinderella and now to The Lion King, no film seems safe from the remake machine – but is this a bad thing? There have certainly been mixed reviews about the need for these films in the first place and whether they are just vessels for money-making. One thing we can say for certain is yes, that’s the case – Disney wants to make money and they know how to.
But that doesn’t detract from the craft that is still going into (some) of these films. We’ll talk about The Lady and the Tramp (2020) another time.
The Lion King is a photo-realistic remake of the 1994 classic that burst its way into Disney’s highest grossing films and into the hearts of many. It tells the tale of Simba, a young lion prince who, following the tragic loss of his father, is sent into exile to rediscover what the meaning of life is to him and whether it could be different from what he has always been taught previously.
With The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau at the helm of the project, he stated that he wanted the film to be ‘the spectacle of a BBC wildlife documentary.’ While everyone may have their own opinion on the film, there is no denying that he accomplished that. The photorealism of the film is astounding and some of the best visual effects work we have seen to date. This could open up a new wave of animation capabilities for the film industry and create fabricated beauty unlike anything we have seen before. Where better to start than with one of the world’s most beloved films?
No, I agree that the film didn’t need to be remade but I don’t think it has – I think if anything, it has been enhanced in a new medium that we’ve not seen before. For me, this film was more about the visual aesthetics than anything else – the story was already there for them and there wasn’t much that they needed to alter in order to bring it to the screen. Many of the lines are exactly the same even if the delivery is different from what we’re used to but more on that later. The changes that they did make were in some ways positive and some ways negative. The biggest change that I noticed was the modification of Be Prepared which was almost unrecognisable. In the cinema, I fell into the category of ‘how dare they!’ with all the other naysayers but after a few more rewatches, I think it fits the tone of the film.
Scar’s character has been changed greatly in the remake with Jeremy Irons not reprising his role and Chiwetel Ejiofor filling the paws of his predecessor. In the 1994 original, Scar was lavish and campy which fitted perfectly with the unique spin that Irons brought into the role. However, Ejiofor’s is much darker and more of a sinister villain who has been broken down by circumstance and is overpowered by greed. To have him suddenly enter into a massive musical number would be out of place.
One of the changes that I didn’t like was the forced subplot of Nala – Disney’s new period of remakes has brought on quite a conscripted form of ‘girl power’ which detracts from the original text. This isn’t so much the case with The Lion King as they pulled a lot from the Broadway musical that we actually see how Nala is dealing with the new ‘improved’ Pride Lands under Scar’s rule. We also see her making the decision to leave and find help, no matter what form that may take. In this instance, I think they try to flesh out Nala’s character more to justify Beyonce’s paycheque which makes sense – even if her voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. Still love you, Queen.
But I don’t think that Nala needed more to her. Every character needs an extended scene in the new remakes to enforce their necessity and their motives but this isn’t always the case. The animated originals had a limited time to introduce characters to their audience and get across the main points in their personality. Nala is one of the more feisty females that we have and she isn’t afraid to tell Simba that he’s in the front – but this isn’t her story, it’s Simba’s. I know there wasn’t too much extra scenes with Nala, just additional lines with her.
The animation and detail was out of this world in this film, making everything feel tangible and as if they were filming real lions and other animals interacting. The bright colours matched with this, the controlled lighting that added to the natural aesthetic is one of the most beautiful additions to film that we’ve seen in recent years, despite what people may say about it. I really enjoyed seeing one of my favourite films in a new, modern light but it doesn’t detract at all from the original. For this remake, I’m happy for Disney to take my money.
What do you think of the remake? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to follow for new reviews.