The Lion King Live Action Compensates Its Lack of Emotion with Breathtaking Visuals
Words by Heather Co
The Lion King (2019) is a live-action remake of the movie of the same title that came out a quarter of a century ago. The original animated musical film that came out in 1994 became one of the most beloved Disney movies and, along with its soundtrack, has made a mark in the childhood of many.
Twenty-five years later, Disney brings back this beautiful story we have all come to love, but this time presented in a whole new way. The modern remake of The Lion King is truly a feast for the eyes with its mind-blowing visuals and graphics, yet can be considered to lack in the emotions and magic of a classic Disney movie.
If there was one thing that Disney was able to nail with this movie, it would be the visuals, with each scene looking so realistic when every frame was painstakingly computer generated. From the opening scene until the last, the graphics of the new Lion King did not disappoint.
The “Circle of Life” opening of the movie included a montage of several animals in Pride Lands that appeared very realistic. The images were so crisp and the colors so vibrant that watching the movie would feel like you are being transported into an African savanna.
Yet, though the visuals were stunning, there were several times when the movie seemed like a “remake” in the literal sense of it due to the lack of originality. Many of the scenes were replicated shot for shot from the original, when the makers could have used their creative freedom to give us a different, fresher perspective.
A downfall in making the animals look too lifelike is that it took away the ability of the characters’ faces to express emotion. Ironically, in trying to make the characters appear more visually realistic, it made the move lifeless, lacking in the subtleties in emotions and the magic needed to complete a Disney movie. A good execution of the nuances in the facial expressions of the characters would have made a huge impact on the emotional reception of the movie from its audience. But the character emotions failed to shine through the stiff animation of the animals’ faces that was needed to make them appear real. This was something that the original 1994 movie was definitely able to do better with the freedom they had in manipulating their characters’ expressions.
One way they could have depicted more emotion was through the voice actors of the characters. They have a brilliant star-studded cast with the likes of Donald Glover and Beyoncé, and James Earl Jones reprising his role as Mufasa. Disney decided to cast voice actors of African-American descent to better suit the characters as the movie was supposedly set in Africa. But even with such a superb cast of voice actors, they often would seem underutilized as their performance was not enough for the emotions to shine through the computer-generated animations.
The animation and voice acting did not combine well enough to be able to communicate raw emotions. And although this was the general trend, there were some standouts, including Timon and Pumba, voiced by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen respectively, who often became the life of the movie in many moments. Many of their scenes also provided the audience a good laugh, and that light-hearted humor was a good reminder of how a Disney movie should be.
Overall, the Lion King live-action remake is a far cry from its 1994 original, but its main saving grace is its visuals. This rendition may appear too similar to the first, perhaps riding on the nostalgia and hoping to draw in crowds that grew up with the original animated movie, but in doing so, they forfeited their chance to play around and come up with a movie that is different and new. One that can stand on its own, without hiding in the shadows of the original.
It may not be the perfect remake, but it is still a movie that can be enjoyed, especially by those who grew up watching Simba and Nala. Catch The Lion King Live-Action Remake in theaters now starting July 17, 2019 in cinemas nationwide.
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