The Lion King: Beautiful, Nostalgic, But Ultimately Unnecessary

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I really love the 1994 The Lion King, and I enjoyed the live-action remake. But after reflecting about it, I’m wondering how much of my enjoyment was due to my love of the original film and not anything new presented here. To me, a live-action remake should bring to life what was originally so amazing while adding to and enriching the original story. And unfortunately, I think The Lion King (2019) fails in the latter. Here’s what I loved, liked, and what I would add to the film.

What I Loved

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The Animation

It’s amazing to me that this is even animation. The animals look so realistic, the scenery is lush and full of life, and the film is just beautiful. I saw the film in Dolby Atmos, and the large screen with enhanced visuals really makes it worth a few extra bucks. See this on the biggest screen you can. It was also special for me because I never saw the original Lion King in theaters.

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The Voice-Over Work

The voiceover work here overall is amazing, but I have a few standouts. JD McCrary as young Simba was perfect; his line delivery was on-point and tugged on my heartstrings. Billy Eichner as Timon and Beyoncé as Nala were also outstanding. And of course, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, just for that extra hint of nostalgia.

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The Music

By music, I mean both the music featured in the film and the album curated by Beyoncé and various artists to accompany the film. Again, the music adds that element of nostalgia because they are shops we have heard before. But the new songs (“Bigger” is one of my personal favorites) are quite beautiful and add a modern twist to The Lion King.

What I Liked

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The Animation

It’s a bit weird to put this in both categories, but let me explain. The animation is beautiful, but when it came to some of the animals, it was a little too realistic. Because of the realism, some animals couldn’t fully emote and sometimes I felt like I was hearing awesome voicework, but watching it come out of an emotionless animal. That’s why some of the animation is part of the “liked” category. If the animals fully emoted, all of the animation would be in “loved.”

What I Would Add

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More Details

Let me reiterate, the best live-action remakes (and the reason you should make one) is to bring life a beloved story, while also adding new, enriching details. There is SO MUCH that could have been added to this story, so many missed opportunities. For example, show more of Simba and Nala’s friendship, the relationship between Simba and his mother, Sarabi so their reunion means more, a flashback to show when Scar ultimately started to hate his brother or even the massive showdown between and Scar and Mufasa that was occasionally referenced. 

And even though I love Hakuna Matata replicate with Donald Glover’s Simba emerging as an adult, I would have loved to see more details of Simba, Timon, and Pumba’s friendship. See what I’m saying? The 1994 film is already fantastic, but this film should have been that and more. Both Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast stand out as Disney live-action remakes because they brought to life amazing stories, while also adding details that made the story better. And The Lion King should have done the same.

Jeff Nathanson is credited for writing the film, but what did he write that was truly different from the original? And that’s the problem with this film. So what would I add? A lot.

So while I enjoyed seeing The Lion King, especially with my family, I ultimately have to admit that enjoyment came from the nostalgia of the experience, more than the film itself.