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The live-action ‘The Lion King’ is a realistically animated depiction of a Disney classic. (Photo via @THR on Twitter) 

Film Review: Disney’s live-action ‘The Lion King’ has gut-punching realism and a phenomenal cast

The story of Simba and the circle of life is one of Disney’s oldest and most popular films. Based off Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the 1994 animated film, The Lion King, follows Simba, a young lion cub who, after experiencing his father’s death, runs away to start a new life. 

Though live-action remakes seem to be the newest fad for Disney, with reimaginings of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, it seemed a bit crazy to remake a film solely with animals and no human characters. However, director Jon Favreau’s final product is much more beautiful and heartwarming than expected. 

Including a primarily African-American cast, the casting is quite incredible. Donald Glover is the perfect choice for Simba, with his playful voice and charm, but also his powerful leadership. The film also did a great job by recasting James Earl Jones as Mufasa. His voice is so soothing to listen to, and is also really iconic for the role. With the entire film being a callback to the original cartoon, Jones’ voice is the most exciting. 

With such an iconic cast, it’s no surprise the film chose Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen to play the funniest roles, Timon and Pumbaa. The two worked so well together and are a big part of the movie being as great as it is. Their humor isn’t a direct quotation from the original film, though there are some nods to the original film’s duo of •Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella. Eichner and Rogen make the roles their own, with Eichner’s shining vocals and Rogen’s off-key rasp. If for nothing else, everyone should see the film and hear these two comedians shine. 

The greatest aspect of the film is how realistic it is. The shots of nature are breathtakingly gorgeous, and the “Circle of Life” scene is enough to move anyone to tears. Seeing all of the animals in this beautiful place, working together to achieve a balanced environment is fascinating. Though the story and meaning of the circle of life is shown in the cartoon, it provides more of a punching affect with the real animals and scenery. 

The computer-generated animals are also phenomenally well done. The animators are extremely accurate to the mannerisms of actual animals, instead of making them too cartoon-like. Audiences can still see the emotion from the animals faces and actions, without it being too cheesy. With the realism, however, comes the fact that Mufasa’s death scene is even harder to stomach. Spoiler alert, Mufasa dies, and seeing as it’s one of the most heartbreaking fictional deaths in history, it’s so much worse to see it with real animals. 

Setting the tone of the film, the score is another great aspect of live-action The Lion King. In the 1994 version, the score was done by Hans Zimmer, an award-winning composer. In the 2019 version, Zimmer returns with some new music, and some old music. Zimmer also worked with Elton John and Tim Rice in the original version, who returned for the 2019 film as well with some additional music by David Fleming and Steve Mazzaro.

It’s no small feat to take on a beast like The Lion King, but Favreau does it, and he does it well. With plenty of experience in popular films like the Iron Man franchise and experience in live-action films featuring CGI animals with The Jungle Book, Favreau is no stranger to this kind of direction, and he showcases that in this film. 

Though some people argue the 2019 version of The Lion King is a lesser quality copy of the original, the live-action remake does a great job of representing the story through a much more realistic lens, that is by no means a bad quality copy. With a phenomenal cast, a beautiful score and a new view of the nature settings, The Lion King is a great film that deserves to be seen. Nothing will ever beat the original cartoon, but this film sure comes close.  


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