In the last one:

At least I’m glad that my favorite Disney movie doesn’t have any people in it so good luck making a live-action version of The Lion-King. Haha could you imagine… well good luck to whatever Disney property is the next victim.

*Goes to check Disney’s line-up*

AW F-

And so it continues…

The Lion King (2019)

UCK.

The Lion King (2019) is a 2 hour long tech demo pretending to be a movie. But not just any movie it’s one of Disney’s finest animated flicks Kimba The White Lion…. I mean The Lion King. The original Lion King, was a brightly colored, energetic, and emotional tale of a young lion club learning the nature of mortality and finding his place in the world. Learning the hardship of overcoming a tragic past and figuring out whether it is the best to hide or confront that past to better your future self. Flash forward to 2019 and that story is turned into “computer puppet gets a geometry lesson”…. and it’s just as good?

Why the long face?

Donald Glover in The Lion King (2019)

Things that show more emotion/expression than any character in this movie:

  • Buster Keaton
  • Jason Voorhees
  • The blue man group
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Animals you’d find in a taxidermy shop
  • a pet rock
  • a Lego brick
  • Plank from Ed, Edd, and Eddy
  • Teller of Penn and Teller
  • Lieutenant Commander Data 
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • The faceless stand-in I use on this blog

The list goes on… I think the only thing I could think that had less emotion was me sitting there in the theater.

I know this point has been done to death and I don’t want it to be seen as the “only complaint” but it’s kind of a major setback. There’s a reason why a movie often uses you know actual people and not cardboard standees. So here’s the hot take, no matter how “real” the animation looks, it looks really really bad.

The Animation

JD McCrary in The Lion King (2019)

I really haven’t seen anyone who says that the animation isn’t impressive. The amount of detail and texture throughout the film is incredibly absurd. Shout out to all the animators who brought this film to such vivid detail… but is it good design. NO.

The lighting designs in this film are abysmal and boring…. because there’s only two of them. Most of the film takes place in sunny broad daylight or an ugly murky blue overlay that I guess is supposed to be night. They must know that the blue night scenes look bad because “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is now a day scene. Any shadows or highlights never feel like they make a difference, the framing of scenes is either plagiarized or uninspired, and all the locations look pretty much the same. You could look at scenes and probably have a hard time distinguishing: is this the pride lands or the elephant graveyard, are we under pride rock or in the hyenas home, is this Simba in the canyon before or after Mufasa’s death. You can look at any one frame of the original Lion King and see more visual storytelling, emotional appeal, and translation of what’s occurring then any moment during this movie.

JD McCrary in The Lion King (2019)
Certainly you can tell this is from right before Simba meets Scar right? Not when he’s catching bugs with Timon and Pumbaa.

I hate stupid videos like Flicks and the City’s video of all the moments that got “fixed” using the connotation that these are things that are improvements and corrections when they’re little details that don’t matter. Is someone really going to go:

“well I liked that that the fruit didn’t have red juice in it, and that there wasn’t Anteaters like in the original when everyone knows that they’re only native to South America. I found that distracting and I’m glad they got rid of it”.

If realism is better than we really went with selective realism in this one because they didn’t fix all the unrealistic moments. They didn’t fix that when Mufasa gets trampled more than the guy who trips in Target during Black Friday shopping he looks like he’s taking an afternoon nap and not brutally mutilated. WHERE’S MY REALISM, I THOUGHT MAKING IT MORE REAL MADE IT BETTER? They didn’t fix that Simba can’t live of a diet of bug protein for years so he should be severely emaciated or you know dead… that would have made the movie better. Of course the big one, I’ve never heard a lion speak English before…. so why not go ALL THE WAY and take all the fun out of it since this story serves any benefit from going “live-action” besides for you know being just a blatant repackaging.

The music

Relive the classic numbers that made it one of Disney’s finest musicals and a Broadway hit, except this time watch as it just keeps progressively loosing steam and fizzles out.

The Circle of Life

Serviceable, it doesn’t have the same grandiose as the original. In the original when the title hits it felt like you just witnesses this epic event, this time it’s more a feeling of “ah, yes the movie is starting”.

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King

JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph in The Lion King (2019)

This one just hurt. It might not be the best or most memorable Disney music number but its always been one of my personal favorites just because how fun and energetic it is. It starts off really promising, I was impressed as the kids do a really good job of a carrying a tune, I congratulate them for really killing it. I understand realism wasn’t going to permit it, but this number needs that crescendo at the end. Of course, I wasn’t expecting to see anything nearly as stunning as the animal pyramid come tumbling down, but when your holding that final note and the visual is as ridiculous as 20 animal models all facing forward assuming the A-pose (guess a T-pose was too silly) giving a thousand yard stare into the distance I don’t think you’ve achieved the same effect.

I want to bring up an aspect that is underappreciated in the original and that’s how the film uses sonic elements and often incorporated it into the animation. The relationship is honestly beautifully woven together and often gives life to the visuals as: large percussion instruments represent the stomping of an elephant, geysers are used to emphasize certain segments of “Be Prepared”, even a trombone beat is used to emphasize a reaction shot of Simba in the original “Hakuna Matata”. Sound effects, score, and other sounds where used remarkably to enhance the environment, comedy, and music of the film and it’s a shame that there is not anything close to an attempt to do anything this creative this time around.

Be Prepared

Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, and Eric André in The Lion King (2019)

I’m actually going to shower some praise with this one, which might be a little unexpected. I just want to say how much I appreciate… Matt Mercer, who performs the voice of Maximus Elephante in Leo the Lion a movie that has 1.6/10 on IMDb, the movie that Common Sense Media called “insufferably bad”, Reddit has it as one of the Worst movies ever and I even described my experience of watching as “torture”…. but that movie has a better version of “Be Prepared” in it than The Lion King (2019). That’s just sad to admit.

If you wanna see good animation, Leo the Lion is in a league of it’s own.

Oh boy was this maybe the lowest part of the movie. It felt like when in Aladdin they did a fake out with Will Smith doing like a really lame a Capella version of “Friend Like Me” and then he goes all out but in this one after the really lame version of “Be Prepared” they move onto the next scene. It just devolved into him chanting Be Prepared like 5 times and I’m like “Bear Down for Midterms? Is that supposed to mean something”. In the original version he was using it as a simple phrase to be a call to action to his growing enthusiastic audience, you can’t just repeat your buzzwords over and over and hope your audience will just attach their own personal interpretations to those vaguely positive statements and hope they’ll follow your leadership… did I just describe American politics?

I can’t wait for The Little Mermaid to just be Melissa McCarthy aggressive shouting “sign the contract” 10 times and then after she signs it…for some reason McCarthy just looks directly into the camera and says “Oh you poor unfortunate soul” and winks and that is all we get.

Hakuna Matata

Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner in The Lion King (2019)

The best song in this version, though that’s not saying much. Actually scratch that the extended version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is actually the best song they have which nobody probably would have guessed that. Personally, I didn’t connect that much to this version of Timon and Pumbaa; even though I didn’t find their material funny I do credit Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen have great delivery and comedic timing that I do see why many are claiming they are the highlight of the film. From the faithful recreation, to the build up to Donald Glover’s arrival to the film to keeping the fun dynamic between Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba it’s the most fun and joy you will find in this film… sadly.

The Dumb Beyoncé Hour

Don’t say it…. don’t say it….. Beyoncé was just okay. I think she gave a completely passable performance that had some rough line deliveries that I don’t think are completely her fault, but I’ll elaborate on that in a bit. Beyoncé is a great vocal singer but let’s not treat her like a sacred cow and challenge some hypocrisy for a second. How many people would be in uproar if the shoe was on the other foot and say theoretically, Paul McCarthy did a cover of a Beyoncé song. How many fanatically nut jobs would go “HOW DARE HE, SIR PAUL MCCARTHY COULD ONLY DREAM OF COMPREHENDING THE LYRICAL EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL INTENT BEHIND SINGLE LADIES“. “So Can You Feel the Love Tonight” turns into a diva moment and that’s fine it sounds good.

If some reason you haven’t convinced yourself that this was all a corporate shill and a soulless husk of shallow creativity… I have never seen a movie have shots exist for the sole purpose of being B-roll of a Beyoncé music video. They put the plot of the movie on hold and had two minutes of Simba running in the desert just so they would have shots for Beyoncé’s music video. So yeah, Disney if you’re going to be this shameless and not care about these movies even a little, please have just 3 minutes in the next Star Wars movie be Rey riding around the Desert planet in an x-wing so we can use it for a Lil Nas X and John Williams Old Town Road remix… everyone will love that idea I swear.

Screenplay and characters

Donald Glover in The Lion King (2019)

hahahaha someone got paid to write this script…. mind blowing. It’s like they just handed Jeff the original script and said change it a bit so the teacher won’t notice… and he was too lazy to even do that. Considering that Jeff’s story writing credits consist of Indiana Jones…… and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Pirates of the Caribbean….. Dead Men Tell No Tales maybe it’s better if he just keeps piggybacking off of other people’s success.

All the new scenes were just long-drawn out scenes of nothing happening, pure tech demo moments. Remember how Scar catches a mouse in the original have you ever wondered how the mouse got in the cave? Me too, glad there is now 5 minutes of watching a mouse walking around. Did you think a dust floating into the air and Rafiki somehow being able to understand that Simba is alive was too absurd? Now we do the opening of Forest Gump where we follow the feather but with Simba’s fur and it’s somehow longer than the opening credits to Forest Gump. It is like a solid 8 minutes now and half of it is literally watching a beetle roll poop around (and the fur remains completely intact despite being a giraffe’s digestive system, selective realism). It’s okay because despite it being only to show-off how well we can animate nature we can justify it as showing the Circle of Life because the audience is too stupid to understand how a food chain works and the way Mufasa explains it in pretty simple terms still isn’t enough so… hope people like watching poop for a couple minutes. Hope that scene doesn’t ruin the pacing, but to make room for it, other scenes are going to have to happen like we want them to be over as soon as possible.

We know people are waiting for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” so how about we have Simba and Nala’s realization and reunion last… 2 seconds. I know people complained in the first one that they already kind of jumped into being passionate lovers despite only exchanging a few words but I think it could be even more rushed and romantic feelings being even more out of place. In the original you can see them both sort of processing that their longtime friend has just appeared out of nowhere and that they want to rekindle their friendship; in this one I can only assume Simba was just so horny that he would “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” with any female lion who showed up.

Remember how Simba gets all the morals of the film through some banter with Rafiki and remembers who he is by witnessing Mufasa in the clouds. How about we do that scene and act like we want to just be at the climax already. Rafiki has no personality in this so he can’t be mocking Simba and telling him all these wise things about the past. Also dead lions don’t appear in the sky, so Mufasa doesn’t appear as some mystical divine intervention. Instead a storm cloud with James Earl Jones voice gives him some advice. It boggles the mind how much they detracted from kind of important scenes, you know the scenes that teach the moral that we have to take ownership of our past and use it to act in the present and better our future. Unimportant I guess.

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.

– Rafiki (The Lion King 1994)

Before I get into characters, whose your favorite new character? There was like 20 new characters who collectively might have had two lines of dialogue. They definitely played a big enough role to give credit for this version’s originality. It definitely wasn’t so we could add more names like: Chance the Rapper, Amy Sedaris, and Phil LaMarr.

When it comes to judging the voice cast and the portrayals you find in this movie… it’s complicated. Casting Director (person who chooses talent) A+. While it might seem that they’re big name hunting I do like all the choices and think they fit the characters really well. Voice Over Director I really think did an awful job. I can only speculate on this, but it just feels like this was someone who didn’t tell his actors anything besides “good, got it, great”. Most voice actors will tell you how vital the voice over director is because voice acting is more difficult than you’d probably think. It’s more than just reading the lines and half the time you’re not in the same room and you have no idea what is going to look like and sometimes even subtle direction (there’s a difference between saying act sad vs somber, happy vs over-joyed, angry vs annoyed) can make a huge difference. Sometimes I feel like Glover is giving a great subtle performance and other times I’m like oh no is one of my favorite actors phoning it in? I love JD McCrary as young Simba he does a great job but after Mufasa dies he does a really cartoonish “crying voice” and it sounds really dumb and out of place coming out of this stoic lion face and in a really grounded scene… but it’s fine who cares I guess.

One actor who proves they don’t need a great director to pull off a performance is Chiwetel Ejiofor who is unfortunately the worst part of this movie. Scar just sucks in this version, all his charm and charisma is replaced with a booming voice and a constantly intimidating presence. I heard recently people have connected that the relationship between Scar and Mufasa is similar to that of Thor and Loki from the MCU. So let’s replace Tom Hiddleston with Liam Hemsworth and just make Loki another prideful jock, would people like that? Ejiofor can command a room though, if we are being honest he would have made a way better Mufasa instead of being forced to turn scar into just edgy Mufasa.

Instead the irreplaceable James Earl Jones is back using his amazing voice to project life into the most expressionless character he’s ever had to portray ( who doesn’t love the voice of Darth Vader). I liked that they got two great comics in Keegan-Michael Key and Eric Andre to only use them for a tired “stop touching me” gag. Overall the actors do a fine job, and I don’t think they’re the problem with this film.

The sad truth is that, honestly I think the cast has so much fun personalities that I can picture just a table-read between the actors being widely entertaining and it’s unfortunate that imagining the cast reading the script sounds like a more fun experience than the actual film.

Completing the circle

James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard, and John Kani in The Lion King (2019)

I think if I had to describe this movie it would be gilded, but also maybe the exact opposite. Is this movie like a gilded statue flaunted the golden prestige of the original but is just covering a worthless hollow movie under the surface. Or is it a great movie with talented actors and animators putting a lot of care into their craft that’s just completed lost on this lifeless coating of a photo-realism aesthetic and a poor idea to begin with. You can say these actors get a chance to perform these iconic roles, and the animators get to put something great on their resumes, and the fans and a new generation of fans get to get experience a classic but I think we all who gets the lion’s share out of this circle of nostalgia. Cha-ching.

5 thoughts on ““You’ve Never Seen a Tale Like This” Crystal The Lion King (Review)

  1. Things that show more emotion/expression than any character in this movie: Jason Voorhees😂😂😂 That just made me laugh so much! 😂😂
    As for behind on anime, I think I’m even farther behind with Disney movies, having never seen the original Lion King (yeah, I know that’s bad😅😅). It’s really annoying that Disney just keeps making these live action adaptations instead of going back to making classic animation films like they used to. I can only keep my fingers crossed hoping that eventually they will get back to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Seeing all of these live action adaptations just existing is painful. I just refuse to spend my money on them for nostalgic reasons, even if I do go into that comic book movie fad quite a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Even though I’ve been a Lion King hater for years now, I still respect that you had the nerve to criticize this train wreck of a remake. Funny you talk about how scenes are plagiarized since the original was guilty of that with Kimba the White Lion with the scenes, plot points, and multiple characters. Haha!

    I’m happy that Disney has been getting flack for this remake. How stupid can they be by making a so-called live action remake when there are no human characters around. That’s saying nothing how the Disney Animated Canon is 0 for 2 when it comes to having a movie take place in Africa without a single African HUMAN character (Black Panther and Queen of Katwe doesn’t count and you know it), like it’s some racist fantasy of depopulating the continent. Don’t even get me started on the racist crap with the hyenas or how Mufasa was low key committing genocide with the Elephant Graveyard…

    Not going to lie, when I found out by accident that Chiwetel Ejiofor was going to play Scar, I yelled “NO! You were in Talk to Me and Children of Men! Have some freaking dignity!”. If you want to see him do a good job in playing a villain, then watch Serenity (the Firefly sequel). Besides, he’s decades younger than James Earl Jones and certainly sounds far younger, so I didn’t buy him in being a brother at all.

    This doesn’t surprise me with Beyonce. She’s not some goddess as the Beyhive would proclaim. Funny enough, she’s getting blasted on the internet because that Spirit music video plagiarized a long form music video from the South African musician Petite Noir which came out LAST YEAR! For shame, Disney! That only proves my point even more that The Lion King is built on a legacy of thievery. Kimba the White Lion? I rest my case. Trademarking and culturally appropriating the phrase “Hakuna Matata”? Yeah, that actually happened. Withholding royalties from the late South African singer Solomon Linda for being the real songwriter of “The Lion Sleep Tonight” until a lawsuit finished in 2006? Oh, yeah. There’s even a documentary I want to see called The Lion’s Share with how his family was penniless and how his heirs fought against Disney and the licensing company that screwed him over.

    Whew! Sorry for the long comment. I did enjoy your review nonetheless even with our differing thoughts on that 90s Disney movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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