Release date: July 19
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Donald Glover, Seth Rogan, and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Mister Marquee Says: Pointless
Really, you don’t know the plot of The Lion King? Have you ever read Hamlet? Anyway, Simba is a lion and the son of King of Pride Rock, Mufasa, the wise king whose jealous brother Skar is plotting to steal the throne with the help of an army of hyenas.
I almost loathe to review these Disney remakes because it just feels so pointless. You’ve seen this movie before, nearly shot for shot. Calling it a “live action” remake is extra hilarious considering there are no actual actors or sets in the movie. It is 100% computer animated. By that standard, Toy Story is live action. This is a remake of an animated movie with slightly different animation. Jon Favreau did an amazing job with The Jungle Book, but lightning hasn’t struck twice. The Jungle Book deviated from the source material and felt new. Plus, that is a much older movie that isn’t quite as iconic as The Lion King. The original isn’t dated yet either, why watch this movie when you can get the same thing from the original?
Copying a movie shot for shot doesn’t work. There’s something, be it a sense of deja vu or some movie magic that can’t be articulated, you can’t just replicate the same movie and get the same effect. Gus Van Sant’s Psycho proved this twenty years ago, but Disney is still trying to make these round pegs fit square holes. They just want to lure in fans of the original but know that changing the movie will anger them, so they take no risks.
This is a rare misfire for Favreau. It’s not that Lion King is bad. It has solid animation, a great voice cast, and music. This movie has no soul. It has no soul because it’s a clone of a movie with a soul. It’s a cinematic crime against nature for sucking money from wallets, taking a talented director and a talented cast, and reducing them to copycats. This is like signing the Beetles but insisting they only play covers. I can’t even imagine how soul crushing working on a movie like this must be for Favreau. He’s an artist, not a Kinko’s copy boy. His father-son indie masterpiece Chef was dripping with meta commentary. It was the story of a chef at a big-budget fancy restaurant who buys a beat-up little food truck and makes street food across the country to reinvigorate his love of cooking. I can only image how a guy like that feels being handed a beloved cartoon from the 90s and being told to make the same thing. It’s like a master chef being told to heat up the last guy’s chili and serve it.
You know how when you copy a sheet of paper, the lines, the creases, the little imperfections all come out as shadows or dark lines? It works that way with stories, too. With so little originality to grasp at, some of the flaws we overlooked in the original movie are more pronounced. Why exactly do all the antelopes and other prey stay in the pride lands? Because Mufasa will only kill some of them while the Hyenas will kill them all? Do the antelope have to pay a flesh tribute to the king? What is the difference between Mufasa and the President from Hunger Games? Simba and Nala are totally brother and sister. Why is it Skar’s fault that the plants all die? Since when do lions control the weather? The weather thing also plays into this movie’s obsession with Divine Right which feels icky in a representative democracy. Anyway, this movie is a waste of time. It’s a carbon copy of a better movie. Just wait it out for Disney and watch the good one for $6.