Jon Favreau’s remake is visually stunning, but it lost the magic of the original film
The expectations for the live-action remake of The Lion King were really high, especially after the results Disney achieved with Dumbo and Aladdin. Approaching the original masterpiece was the responsibility of Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man, The Jungle Book) and we are aware that it was not an easy job.
The american director wanted The Lion King to be as realistic as possible, so the inspiration for the new version came from three sources: the original animated film, Julie Taymor’s award-winning Broadway adaptation of it and David Attenborough’s BBC nature documentaries. In addition to that, Favreau travelled to Kenya and, at the beginning of 2017, he sent to Africa part of his production team to observe the animals living in the Pride Lands.
The plot faithfully follows the original: Simba is a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands. However, Simba’s paternal uncle, Scar, plots with the hyenas to kill both his brother and nephew to get the throne. As Mufasa dies, due to the conspiracy, Simba is led to think he’s responsible for his father’s death and flees into exile.
The Lion King is visually stunning and it offers its best in the wide shots, which allow the audience to be part of Africa’s charming nature, but there’s only a spark of the spirit of the original animated-film.
The opening sequence, featuring The Circle of Life, is still the highlight of The Lion King, but the main flaw is the dubbing: when it comes to talking, funny characters as Pumbaa, Timon and Zazu (voiced by Seth Rogen, Billy Echner and John Oliver) are the most credible, while the adults sound really weird.
We can’t fully blame Donald Glover and Beyoncé, who voice Simba and Nala, for that: introducing a fantasy story in a docu-like setting is a big challange that comes at a cost. Nevertheless, the voice cast did a good job in delivering the emotional weight of the original songs, except for some iconic hits like the fan-favorite Hakuna Matata, which sounds more like isolated performing exercise than like the euphoric anthem we were used to.
Favreau’s effort is significant but in the attempt to look realistic, the film lost the magic of the fairytale.
Hitting italian theaters next month (August 21, 2019), The Lion King will be released in the U.S. and most european countries on July 19.