PG, but remember! The original Lion King is a horrorshow for children. While I haven't seen every Disney animated film, it's gotta be Top 5 for scary movies. Now, take a scary animated movie and then make it MORE REALISTIC! That scene? In the movie. The hyenas, who were terrifying to begin with are now more scary looking. There's a scene where baby Simba and Nala are underground as hyenas rip through earth to tear them apart. It's got stuff. PG.
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
I'm going to argue against myself right now. I've discussed ad nauseum about the complete waste of time that the live action remakes are. My original thesis is that movies like Dumbo that have a less rabid fanbase have opportunities to get new audiences. Now, I'm going to tweak that argument because I actually really liked the live-action Lion King.
The Lion King is one of the big ones. People love that movie. I, personally, think it's fine. But I never really got on board the notion that it is one of the best movies. Age might have something to do with it. Also, the concept of enjoyment comes down to personal taste and I think that's something we all need to accept when we write / read stuff like this. But what the live action remake actually revealed is that Disney might have a point with the live action remake. Dumbo...wasn't great. My big argument was that it had a greater potential to be great compared to something like The Jungle Book. But I heard that people really hated The Lion King remake, and I have a good idea why.
When that trailer came out, everyone lost their minds. "Have you seen The Lion King trailer?" Yes, everyone, I had. It did nothing for me. It looked really pretty and the special effects looked awesome. But you could watch that trailer and know exactly what scene Favreau was recreating. And people couldn't get enough of it...until they did. The movie came out and it was a lot of beat-for-beat moments from the animated version of the movie. Disney has no idea how to handle a remake done by the same company that made the original. In previous remakes, there were noticable changes that made the movie something new and people just griped to high heaven about these changes. It wasn't the thing that they fell in love with, so it was an abomination. Favreau decided to give people exactly what they wanted and gave them almost an exact copy of the original film. That was when people said, "It's the exact same thing. Why do I care?"
Basically, people are going to be unhappy regardless.
But for someone like me, who had no allegiance to the original Lion King, the remake offered something just different enough that it made me appreciate what I hadn't appreciated before. There's a very mature story lurking around Lion King. I know that this isn't a major revelation for most. But I always found an incongruity between the cartoony art and the content of The Lion King. It always felt like Disney had defined itself by a very specific style of art (which isn't always true if you consider The Emperor's New Groove as a major release). It is always clean and kid centered. But The Lion King feels like it was meant to be a movie for an older audience, despite being an animated feature. Grafting realistic art styles with a bleak story kind of works. Instead of the comedy satisfying younger audiences who may be too afraid of the mature subject matter, the comedy acts as catharsis for a deep and troubling movie. I'm not saying that The Lion King is Requiem for a Dream or anything, but those jokes definitely create an interesting mood for a film that could easily be dismissed as a kids movie.
I also oddly like some of the slightly different interpretations of characters. I know that Nathan Lane completely crushed it as Timon in the original, but I absolutely adore Billy Eichner coupled with Seth Rogan. Timon and Pumbaa have always been the big pull to The Lion King. I almost never really cared about the lion drama of the film, but Timon and Pumbaa were always really watchable. It has to be an unenviable task to take on such a major role that people adore, but Eichner and Rogan kill it. Honestly, they might actually be better than the original. THERE! I said it! I know, they are standing on the shoulders of giants and they have this weird "telling a joke a second" time bit, but the timing is so good with the whole movie. Also, the problematic narrative of Timon and Pumbaa's freedom from consequences is somehow driven harder than the original film then.
But then again, I also have to consider who I am RIGHT NOW. The entire drive behind the remakes is a play on nostalgia. We're meant to reconnect to childhood with these remakes, but The Lion King wasn't about my childhood. I didn't really care about that one. All of the themes and messages that I gleaned from the remake were in the original film, but I wasn't necessarily in the headspace to appreciate those themes. It's only when I was able to view the remake divorced from the nostalgia of the original that I was able to actually enjoy the 2019 version by itself. This brings me to my new hypothesis. Maybe these remakes, while intended for the Disney fanbase, may actually serve new audiences more than old audiences. This is a flawed business plan, but it may be the unintended result. The live-action versions tend to appeal to older audiences. My kids shut down when movies aren't cartoons. But Disney has to be aware that modern classics are falling off the world. Drawing attention to these original films through their remakes ensures that Disney continues to get those sweet Disney dollars. It's just not working the way that they want it to.
And I have to admit, as much as I had fun with The Lion King remake because it was a fun, dark, and gorgeous movie, it isn't ever going to make me Lion King crazy. It made me appreciate something that I had dismissed better. For me, the remake is actually better than the original. But again, it is ultimately unnecessary. These movies are good times and I enjoy them in the moment, but I'll never really end up watching The Lion King again. It's enjoyable, but who really cares. There's something kind of soulless knowing that the remakes are more about business than storytelling. A shot-for-shot remake, while I enjoyed it, means that Favreau only did his best to please fans rather than offer much new. I'm such a small demographic to appease that I have to wonder if the remake train is really the best way for Disney to go.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.