The Lion King (2019) Movie Review

The Lion King is a 2019 American musical film directed and produced by Jon Favreau, written by Jeff Nathanson, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is a photorealistic live-action remake of Disney’s traditionally animated 1994 film of the same name. The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his role from the original film. The plot follows Simba, a young lion who must embrace his role as the rightful king of his native land following the murder of his father, Mufasa, at the hands of his uncle, Scar.

Plans for a remake of 1994’s The Lion King were confirmed in September 2016 following box office successes for Disney remakes such as The Jungle Book (2016), which was also directed by Favreau. Favreau was inspired by certain roles of characters in the Broadway adaptation, and developed upon elements of the original film’s story. Much of the main cast signed in early 2017, and principal photography began in mid-2017 on a blue screen stage in Los Angeles. The “virtual-reality tools” utilized in The Jungle Book’s cinematography were used to a greater degree during filming of The Lion King. Composers Hans Zimmer, Elton John, and lyricist Tim Rice, all of whom worked on the original’s soundtrack, returned to compose the score alongside Knowles-Carter, who assisted John in the reworking of the soundtrack and wrote a new song for the film, titled “Spirit”, which she also performed. The film serves as the final credit for editor Mark Livolsi, and it is dedicated to his memory. With an estimated budget of around $260 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made.

The film was theatrically released in the United States on July 19, 2019. It has grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, surpassing Frozen as the highest-grossing animated film, and is also the second highest-grossing film of 2019 and seventh-highest of all-time. It received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for its visual effects, music, and vocal performances (particularly Rogen and Eichner), but criticism for its lack of originality and facial emotion on the characters.

Plot

In the Pride Lands of Africa, a pride of lions rule over the animal kingdom from Pride Rock. King Mufasa’s and Queen Sarabi’s newborn son, Simba, is presented to the gathering animals by Rafiki the mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. Mufasa shows Simba the Pride Lands and explains to him the responsibilities of kingship and the “circle of life”, which connects all living things. Mufasa’s younger brother, Scar, covets the throne and plots to eliminate Mufasa and Simba, so he may become king. He tricks Simba and his best friend Nala (to whom it is expected Simba will marry) into exploring a forbidden elephants’ graveyard, where they are attacked by spotted hyenas led by Shenzi, Kamari, and Azizi. Mufasa is alerted about the incident by his majordomo, the hornbill Zazu, and rescues the cubs. Though upset with Simba, Mufasa forgives him and explains that the great kings of the past watch over them from the night sky, from which he will one day watch over Simba. Meanwhile, Scar visits the hyenas and manages to convince them to help him overthrow Mufasa in exchange for hunting rights in the Pride Lands.

Scar sets a trap for his brother and nephew, luring Simba into a gorge and having the hyenas drive a large herd of wildebeest into a stampede that will trample him. He informs Mufasa of Simba’s peril, knowing that the king will rush to save his son. Mufasa saves Simba but ends up hanging perilously from the gorge’s edge. Scar refuses to help Mufasa, instead sending him falling to his death. He then convinces Simba that the tragedy was Simba’s own fault and advises him to leave the kingdom and never return. He orders the hyenas to kill the cub, but Simba escapes. Scar tells the pride that both Mufasa and Simba were killed in the stampede and steps forward as the new king, allowing Shenzi and her large pack to live in the Pride Lands.

Simba collapses in a desert and is rescued by Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and warthog, who are fellow outcasts. Simba grows up in the oasis with his two new friends and other animals in their oasis, living a carefree life under the motto “hakuna matata” (“no worries” in Swahili). Now a young adult, Simba rescues Timon and Pumbaa from a hungry lioness, who turns out to be Nala. She and Simba reunite and fall in love, and she urges him to return home, telling him that the Pride Lands have become a drought-stricken wasteland under Scar’s reign. Feeling guilty over his father’s death, Simba refuses and storms off. He then encounters Rafiki, who tells him that Mufasa’s spirit lives on in Simba. Simba is visited by the ghost of Mufasa in the night sky, who tells him that he must take his rightful place as king. Realizing that he can no longer run from his past, Simba decides to return to the Pride Lands.

Aided by his friends, Simba sneaks past the hyenas at Pride Rock and confronts Scar, who was about to fight Sarabi. Scar taunts Simba over his role in Mufasa’s death and backs him to the edge of the rock, where he reveals to him that he murdered Mufasa. Enraged, Simba reveals the truth to the rest of the pride. Scar, who previously claimed that he arrived too late at the gorge, attempts to defend himself, but his knowledge of Mufasa’s last moment exposes his role in Mufasa’s death. Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Zazu, and the lionesses fend off the hyenas while Scar, attempting to escape, is cornered by Simba at a ledge near the top of Pride Rock. Scar begs for mercy and attempts to blame his crimes on the hyenas; Simba spares his life, but orders him to leave the Pride Lands forever. Scar refuses and attacks his nephew, but Simba manages to throw him off the cliff after a brief fight. Scar survives the fall, but is attacked and killed by the hyenas, who overheard his attempt to betray them. Afterwards, Simba takes over the kingship and makes Nala his queen.

With the Pride Lands restored to its usual state, Rafiki presents Simba and Nala’s newborn cub to the assembled animals, continuing the circle of life.

Visual effects

The Moving Picture Company, the lead vendor on The Jungle Book, provided the visual effects, which were supervised by Robert Legato, Elliot Newman and Adam Valdez. The film utilizes “virtual-reality tools”, per Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato. Virtual Production Supervisor Girish Balakrishnan said on his professional website that the filmmakers used motion capture and VR/AR technologies. MPC was in charge of all the VFX shots for this film. There are 1490 VFX shots. The animals were designed from art and photo references. From that, the characters were builded; all the rigging, shapes, textures, shaders and furs were tested through renders, step by step, for further improvements. After that, the animation of the animals were crafted entirely by hand, based on the reference clips. Each mimics, movements, muscles, eyes, face animations and the way the animals breath was animated for over 30 species. The environment was fully created in CGI from references, including all the natural elements in high-definition, the lighting, the Africa ecosystem, and all the FX simulations like water, dirt or fire with the production team combining VR technology with cameras in order to film the remake in a VR-simulated environment. New software had to be developed for the movie, and made it possible to create scenes with a shaky-cam look of a handheld camera. Sean Bailey, Disney’s President of Production, called the film’s visual effects “a new form of filmmaking”, and felt that “Historical definitions don’t work”, stating that “[it] uses some techniques that would traditionally be called animation, and other techniques that would traditionally be called live-action. It is an evolution of the technology Jon [Favreau] used in Jungle Book“.

Rather than animators do everything, the team also used artificial intelligence to allow virtual characters behave in ways that mimicked real animals. There is only one real and non-animated shot in the film

My Personal Thoughts

another Disney remake of an animated classic. There are two reasons that this film exists, and neither is because anything was missing from 1994’s furry Hamlet. The first is to show off genuinely dazzling visual effects, technological marvels that give us photo-real animals in an absolutely convincing setting. The second is to showcase the ability of Disney and director Jon Favreau, following 2016’s reimagining of The Jungle Book, to assemble a world-class voice cast. But it’s still not enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great king of the past.

It doesn’t seem right to describe this as “live action”, when the visuals were created in the London offices of visual effects wizards MPC. Whatever its category, the immediate and overwhelming impression is so life-like that you expect David Attenborough to start narrating at any moment. Every hair and whisker is in place, every footprint raises a puff of dust. You’ll believe that Pride Rock is a real place somewhere in Africa, watching over a landscape kept in careful balance by the stewardship of its great lion king, Mufasa. He is voiced, once again, by James Earl Jones, because some things are sacrosanct even in this mixed-up age. Our hero, Mufasa’s son Simba (JD McCrary; replaced in adulthood by Donald Glover), is just as cute and clumsy as ever as he takes his first steps into the big, wide world.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of Florence Kasumba, Eric André and Keegan-Michael Key as the hyenas, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Beautifully crafted and carefully conceived, without ever entirely justifying its existence.

The big problem with this photo-realism, however, is that animal mouths are not designed for words, and their faces do not express human emotion. What we gain in realism we lose in expression, even in their limpid eyes; it’s distinctly jarring when these cats speak, and even more when they break into song. You can’t help but mentally impose the performances of their 2D predecessors and see far more, well, animation in the older characters.

This emotional gap is somewhat covered over by a talented voice cast, with Chiwetel Ejiofor making a bitter yet seductive Scar and John Oliver snarking up a storm as the fussy Zazu. But it’s not until Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen rock up as Timon and Pumba, respectively, that the film finds its groove. Favreau gives them their head, and they inject a much-needed shot of humour and energy into all the Shakespearean drama of Pride Rock. For a while they succeed in lifting the pace from a stately big-cat stalk to a full stampede, at least until Simba’s old pal Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) turns up and drags him back to save the pride from evil uncle Scar’s predations.

Young Simba (JD McCrary, later Donald Glover) is destined to become king of Pride Rock like his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones). But his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plots for the throne, and Simba ends up alone in exile. Can he ever regain his kingdom?

Another month, another Disney remake of an animated classic. There are two reasons that this film exists, and neither is because anything was missing from 1994’s furry Hamlet. The first is to show off genuinely dazzling visual effects, technological marvels that give us photo-real animals in an absolutely convincing setting. The second is to showcase the ability of Disney and director Jon Favreau, following 2016’s reimagining of The Jungle Book, to assemble a world-class voice cast. But it’s still not enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great king of the past.

The Lion King 2019

It doesn’t seem right to describe this as “live action”, when the visuals were created in the London offices of visual effects wizards MPC. Whatever its category, the immediate and overwhelming impression is so life-like that you expect David Attenborough to start narrating at any moment. Every hair and whisker is in place, every footprint raises a puff of dust. You’ll believe that Pride Rock is a real place somewhere in Africa, watching over a landscape kept in careful balance by the stewardship of its great lion king, Mufasa. He is voiced, once again, by James Earl Jones, because some things are sacrosanct even in this mixed-up age. Our hero, Mufasa’s son Simba (JD McCrary; replaced in adulthood by Donald Glover), is just as cute and clumsy as ever as he takes his first steps into the big, wide world.

Beautifully crafted and carefully conceived, without ever entirely justifying its existence.

The big problem with this photo-realism, however, is that animal mouths are not designed for words, and their faces do not express human emotion. What we gain in realism we lose in expression, even in their limpid eyes; it’s distinctly jarring when these cats speak, and even more when they break into song. You can’t help but mentally impose the performances of their 2D predecessors and see far more, well, animation in the older characters.

This emotional gap is somewhat covered over by a talented voice cast, with Chiwetel Ejiofor making a bitter yet seductive Scar and John Oliver snarking up a storm as the fussy Zazu. But it’s not until Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen rock up as Timon and Pumba, respectively, that the film finds its groove. Favreau gives them their head, and they inject a much-needed shot of humour and energy into all the Shakespearean drama of Pride Rock. For a while they succeed in lifting the pace from a stately big-cat stalk to a full stampede, at least until Simba’s old pal Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) turns up and drags him back to save the pride from evil uncle Scar’s predations.

It’s all beautifully crafted and carefully conceived, without ever entirely justifying its existence. A few new songs increase the running time and chances of an Oscar, yet mean it sometimes drags before the lost prince returns to reclaim his throne. So, you might feel the love tonight, but perhaps not quite as much as before.

I will rate this movie 8/10. It is also available in other language like French, Hindi and many more.

Directed byJon Favreau
Produced by Jon Favreau Jeffrey Silver Karen Gilchrist
Screenplay byJeff Nathanson
Based onDisney’s The Lion King
by Irene Mecchi
Jonathan Roberts
Linda Woolverton
Starring Donald Glover Seth Rogen Chiwetel Ejiofor Alfre Woodard Billy Eichner John Kani John Oliver Beyoncé Knowles-Carter James Earl Jones
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited by Mark Livolsi Adam Gerstel
Production
company
Walt Disney Pictures Fairview Entertainment
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date July 9, 2019 (Hollywood) July 19, 2019 (United States)
Running time118 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$250–260 million
Box office$1.647 billion
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