The Lion King (2019)
I went into the live action Lion King with a few concerns:
? Will the magic of the original animation completely disappear?
?? Will the animals eyes appear “dead” and “soulless”? [See The Polar Express]
? Will the talking animals look janky? Will it even look like they’re actually talking?
?? How will Beyoncé do?
All of my concerns melted into laughter, tears, and joy throughout the 2-hour journey that is The Lion King. And that’s a difficult feat: The original story is so pure and natural that any mistakes in tone or flaws in the performance of computer-generated animals could ruin your experience.
But there are no flaws. You couldn’t tell me that real animals weren’t talking to each other, laughing and frolicking across the great plains. The live action Lion King is a simply beautiful film. I couldn’t stop staring at—well, everything, because I knew it wasn’t real but my eyes told a different story. So let it be real, let the visuals envelop you, let birds protect lions, let warthogs sing. There’s even a rain scene, and as far as I knew, all of the animals on screen were truly wet. The production is just that good.
As far as the magic without the animation? If you think of a fairy tale like a meal, it requires lots of ingredients to make it work. The story requires the right tone, the right voices, timing just so. Joke placement just right. Innocence of children. Villains cast in darkness. The Lion King is a musical, in case anyone forgot, and a live character’s transition from speaking to singing can get a little choppy, even corny. That didn’t happen here. Almost every song seemed natural, as if they snuck up on you. [Almost every song: See “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”.] Once all of the ingredients are mixed together, it works. In fact, I think the singing was a bit restrained in this version to lend more to its realness, if that’s possible.
How did Beyoncé do? She did fine. The fact that her performance was one of my concerns is proof that we put too much pressure on that woman. She’s already on the soundtrack and produced a brand new song(s) just for the film.
Donald Glover was also fine. James Earl Jones is 88 now, which put even more #respeck on his voice as Mufasa. Seth Rogen was funny. Alfre Woodard—I honestly wish she spoke more but I’ll chill. Same for Florence Kasumba (Ayo from Black Panther; she’s the lead hyena). More, please.
The standout performance? Easily Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar. He’s the Shakespearean villain every film wish it had. He is amazing.
The story is already a great one, and the live action execution here should be seen by all who already love The Lion King, Disney movies, and musicals. Ma.Gi.Cal.
The Lion King (2019): 3 1/2 of 4 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️?