What’s this you say, yet another live-action remake of a much loved Disney classic animation? It’s clear that while some continue to see very little point in this current obsession with remaking absolutely everything, there’s no denying that the recent success of some of these productions goes to show that there is a real appetite for them. After all, who knew that Aladdin, admittedly one of the least eagerly anticipated of these reboots, could end up being one of highest grossing films of 2019 so far.
All of which brings us to The Lion King, the latest and possibly the best and most lavish of these live-action remakes yet. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book), the film which is an impressive CGI re-imagining of the 1994 classic, stars the voices of global superstar Beyoncé and musician/writer/actor and all around cool guy Donald Glover (Childish Gambino, Community, Atlanta).
We return to the African Savanna where Simba (voiced as a cub by JD McCrary), a future lion king is born to king Mufasa (James Earl Jones reprising his earlier role) and Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). Guided by his proud father, Simba is taught from a very early age to respect his environment and all the creatures in it, no matter who they are or how strong or weak they may be. However, not everyone is happy with this new royal arrival. Scar (the voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasa’s estranged villainous brother, appears to have more sinister plans for both his brother and young nephew.
When Mufasa is killed, Scar convinces young Simba that his father is dead because of him. Defeated and ashamed of his actions, the young cub flees the kingdom and is later adopted by inseparable duo Pumbaa the warthog (voiced brilliantly by Seth Rogen) and Timon the meerkat (Billy Eichner) who teach him not to take things so seriously. Later, a now adult Simba (Glover) is forced to face up to his responsibilities when childhood friend Nala (Beyoncé) begs him to return to the kingdom and rid the Savanna of Scar and his sinister allies.
While the live-action description might not completely fit a film which has been mostly CGI generated in a studio, there is no denying that this is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most skillfully put together production of its kind. Director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson have given us a film wich manages to be both technically superior and thematically more conscious than the original.
Helped by Caleb Deschanel’s stunning cinematography which, at times, gives the impression of being in a lavish David Attenborough’s Blue Planet episode, the film makes the conscious decision of moving the narrative towards a strong ecological message whilst being careful not to lose the ethos of the original. Elsewhere, Hans Zimmer is at hand to provide a suitably moving score which is more than befitting of the the brilliant soundtrack.
Overall, an expertly executed, moving and thoroughly engaging remake which brings new meanings and nuances to the original story.
The Lion King is in cinemas from Friday 19th of July