‘Lion King’ Update Dazzles With Its Visual Details

Though its characters certainly look realistic, it would be a mistake to call the newly reimagined The Lion King a “live-action version” of the 1994 Disney classic (as some have done), when it’s really just a different form of animation. But most people will just be calling it “spectacular.”

The Lion King was arguably the high point of Disney’s ’90s renaissance, so director Jon Favreau and his crew didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. They just made it a shinier wheel. The story and characters are essentially unchanged from the original, but they’re painted on an entirely new canvas. And it’s the canvas that’s the real star of the movie.

More than any of the voice actors’ work, more than any of the animators’ work, I found myself most impressed with the breathtaking landscapes filmed by Favreau and his MVP, famed cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. These stunning shots, filmed in Kenya, provide a superior backdrop for the animators, who respond with top-notch work of their own. Clearly, countless hours have been spent studying the biomechanics of these jungle animals and their rippling, sinewy muscles, because there are times when it’s easy to wonder whether these animals are real or animated.

This heightened realism means the fights and stampedes are a lot more intense than the original, and even the emotional impact of Mufasa’s death is greater when you see young Simba nestle himself into his father’s still-warm body, his face showing carefully nuanced anguish, rather than old-style cartoon sadness.

Having voiced Mufasa in the original, James Earl Jones and his classy baritone return to provide a tangible link between the old and new versions, and his presence here is welcome. Among the new voices, Seth Rogen is the standout as Pumbaa, the malodorous warthog. Beyoncé brings a lot more sass to the grown-up Nala than in the original movie, but she also provides one of the film’s rare missteps — her melisma-laden performance of Can You Feel The Love Tonight? is far too over-the-top compared to her duet partner, Donald Glover’s. There’s no denying Beyoncé’s talents as a singer, but her vocal acrobatics throw the duet’s balance jarringly out of whack.

(The film’s other holdover songs, mostly produced by Pharrell Williams, have been pretty faithfully updated. A new Beyoncé track, Spirit, is nice but not as memorable as the original songs, and another new addition — a new Elton John song that plays over the end credits — finds the Rocketman rocker sounding surprisingly spry at age 72.)

As with the other recent Disney remakes, there have been a few updates to bring the films in step with today’s culture. In addition to Nala being a much more feisty and ferocious female than the 1994 version, Rogen’s Pumbaa has a made-for-social media moment when he proudly stands up to body-shaming bullies.

Knowing that the current crop of Disney do-overs are inevitably judged against their predecessors, it feels like Favreau has gone out of his way to pay homage to the original, as some of its most iconic shots have been painstakingly reproduced here. But again, with the story remaining the same, the key difference here is the cinematography and animation. And while the original certainly has that old-school Disney animation charm, this new version is absolutely spectacular in its realism. It’s clearly the best of the Disney remakes so far, and this new version will likely stand beside the original as a classic.

The Lions King opens in theaters tomorrow.

Find Us On Facebook: Hollywood Outbreak
Follow Us On Twitter: @Hollyoutbreak
Posted by Ari Coine

 

Related articles

Comments

Share article

Latest articles

Charlize Theron: Women’s Movie Roles Have Become More Challenging (And That’s A Good Thing)

Charlize Theron's new movie, The Old Guard, has been winning raves from viewers and critics who have enjoyed director Gina Prince-Bythewood's fresh take on...

Alex Kurtzman Expands ‘Trek’ Universe With Animated ‘Lower Decks’

The first indication that Star Trek's legacy might outlive the original show's three seasons came when the original cast was brought back to do...

‘Hamilton’ Was No Overnight Success For Chris Jackson

Chris Jackson was literally part of the Hamilton phenomenon from the very beginning -- his friend Lin-Manuel Miranda brought him and Daveed Diggs on...

Victor Cruz Loves Being Part Of Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Titan’ Team

Victor Cruz knows all about teamwork. After all, he was part of the 2011 New York Giants squad that shocked the heavily favored New...

Luke Goss Takes On Val Kilmer In Action Packed ‘Paydirt’ Trailer

Luke Goss (Hellboy II, The Hardway) stars in Paydirt as a parolee named Damien who immediately goes back to his old ways, much to...

New Trailers

Alex Kurtzman Expands ‘Trek’ Universe With Animated ‘Lower Decks’

The first indication that Star Trek's legacy might outlive the original show's three seasons came when the original cast was brought back to do...

Luke Goss Takes On Val Kilmer In Action Packed ‘Paydirt’ Trailer

Luke Goss (Hellboy II, The Hardway) stars in Paydirt as a parolee named Damien who immediately goes back to his old ways, much to...

Rosamund Pike Takes On Marie Curie In Prime Video Biopic ‘Radioactive’

  Rosamund Pike, who received an Oscar nomination for Gone Girl, stars as pioneering scientist Marie Curie in the upcoming feature Radioactive. The narrative centers...

Reporter & His Son Go ‘Rogue’ For New Nature Series

In 2006, Bob Woodruff had just been promoted to co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight and was on assignment in Iraq when the unthinkable...

‘Psych’ Still In Sync With New Movie Coming To Peacock

After eight seasons and 120 episodes, there were still more Psych stories to tell, so fans were treated to a made-for-TV Psych movie in...