Did “The Lion King” Live Up to It’s Hype?

Zazu (John Oliver) and Young Simba (JD McCrary) in "The Lion King." Photo by Walt Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock (10341456d)

The Lion King presented itself as the anticipated film of the year and in many ways, it was. The Disney feature has been out for one week to date and has currently pulled in a whopping 968.5 million USD at the box office. It’s drawn in a new generation of young people and has had an old generation of Disney lovers returning. When it comes to money-making ideas, reviving the king of Disney classics has got to be the pinnacle.

Disney is currently in the process of reviving their old catalog with Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, Tarzan and Aladdin all receiving live-action remakes and plenty more being in the works. In terms of old Disney classics, The Lion King has got to be the most treasured and loved of the bunch, so did the remake live up to the hype?

The short answer is… yes. The feature is visually astonishing in every way. The Savanah landscapes take the audience’s breath away and the color palette brings Africa to life in a way the original never quite could. The animals are incredibly realistic and at times it is unclear whether we should be praising the cinematographers or shaking the hands of the animal trainers. In this respect, the film could not have been more successful nor spectacular.

In terms of the story, it’s already one we know and love. This time around, the narrative is more Shakesperean, notably staying truer to Hamlet, the play on which the film is based. The general tone is also darker and more compelling, with the comic relief element from Timon and Pumba feeling even more needed. So if the visuals are spectacular and the story was compelling, why are we left feeling like the live-action remake was a bad idea?

The truth is, by making the animals look undeniably realistic, some of the charm and the magic is lost. Instead of telling a fantasy story of talking animals, the film becomes more like a David Attenborough documentary where someone has dubbed voiceovers onto the animals. The human emotion that was exaggerated on the cartoon animals of the original, looks out of place on these utterly realistic creatures.

Ultimately, The Lion King remake really is sensational and yet we can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Perhaps it’s time we let go of the beloved Disney cartoon originals, now that the animation is so far behind what CGI can do now. Alternatively, perhaps Disney ought to realize that the magic of Disney was never found in its realism, but in its ability to take us out of the real world entirely.