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The Lion King, 2019 – ★

It’s all your favorite characters from The Lion King…post taxidermy. 

The frame by frame recreation constraints, the soul-less nature of the animation, and the dissonance in some of the vocal performances were the biggest foundational problems with this cash grab of a movie.

I felt really dirty having bought this ticket. This film will be an interesting case study for movies going forward. They made so many absolutely baffling decisions. Considering most people have the same gripes with this film, I’m going to try to play devils advocate here and see if I can try to defend/justify some of these decisions. 

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It’s really cool that James Earl Jones is reprising his role with his iconic voice. So cool in fact that maybe they thought it would overshadow the fact that Mufasa in his physical prime sounds like an 88 year old man?

Maybe they didn’t have time to show Rafiki’s superpower origin story where he can identify the specific owners of old digested hair, and also why he keeps his staff locked away for some unknown reason. 

Maybe…uh.. there is an extended cut, and in that cut, there is a plot reason why Can You Feel The Love Tonight was sung at lunchtime? I mean I know the song talks about the “current TWILIGHT atmosphere”, and the “peace the EVENING brings”, but maybe there’s a deleted scene that makes that song have to happen in broad daylight for continuity?

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In all seriousness I can see the surface appeal of committing to full photorealism, that level of detail and accuracy is a technical achievement.  If you pause the movie at anytime, it looks like a still from BBC’s Planet Earth. The issue is that when you have anatomically accurate and photorealistic lions it’s really hard to show them questioning their destiny, laughing at warthog farts, or having Shakespearean banter because…ya know…real lions don’t DO that. The movie should have prioritized character, and conveying the emotion in the scene, over making it photoreal.

 The actual CGI rendering was immaculate, Timon/Pumba/Zazu were character highlights because they actually got new lines, and that’s really where the positives end. The actual animation is getting pretty overhyped, I felt it was clunky at times and isn’t going to age very well. The frame for frame copying made the movie completely unnecessary and the few deviations from the original ranged from uninspired to downright mind-boggling.

If you want to see this movie as a case study about the pitfalls of nostalgic clone movies and shallow commercialization in the industry, go for it, there’s a lot to chew on in that regard. If you want to see a convincing surface level CGI mod of a Disney classic, have fun. If you want to recapture the feeling of watching The Lion King, don’t go see this, just go watch the original, there’s even a 4K version of it out that looks great. If these films tend to disappoint you as much as they do me, please don’t reward Disney by buying a ticket to these, I won’t be from here on out.

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