The Lion King

It took me some time to go and see the new Lion King, and yet I was very enthusiastic when I saw the trailer for the first time.

But I heard some people were disappointed in the film, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go and take the risk of ruining the memory I had of one of the best Disney films I’ve ever seen.

Then I thought the director Jon Favreau did a very good job directing the latest version of The Jungle Book (2016) so I finally decided to trust my first instinct and go and see his adaptation of The Lion King. Without wearing waterproof mascara. I should have known better, what a mistake! =)

I have to say that I really don’t understand how people can be disappointed… the film is so incredibly beautiful that it is actually hard to believe that the animals and the sceneries have all been created in a studio and are therefore computer-generated. The remake makes you wonder if animation can get better than this.

The opening scene with the “Circle of Life” song in the background is truly outstanding and echoes the original film almost shot for shot: We’ll get this feeling again a lot during the film. From this moment on, you can already tell that it was important to the team to maintain the spirit of the Disney classic.

I know that a lot of people didn’t like the film because it looks too realistic and to them, it ruined the emotional dimension of the first version. I strongly disagree with that. In fact, I felt more connected to these animals BECAUSE they seem so real. This only enhances the sensibility and the emotions in the scenes in my opinion.

Let’s talk about the voice cast now.

First, what a delight that James Earl Jones came back for the voice of Mufasa. He was such a perfect king in the original version. His strong and deep voice is the best one to teach young Simba about the circle of life, how to be a good king and how he will someday watch over him through the stars.

Both young Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Simba (JD McCrary) are carefree and full of energy and their voices blend so well on “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”.

I wish Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar) sounded just as vicious as Jeremy Irons, the original one. Though Ejiofor does a really good job, Jeremy Irons will forever remain the voice of the most vicious and despicable villain Disney has ever known.

Donald Glover is a great choice for adult Simba, as the voice of a charming and powerful leader.

As for Beyoncé, she’s a perfect fiery and passionate adult Nala and her rendition of “Can you feel the love tonight” is beautiful, even if slightly unsubtle. It can be a little distracting for the audience when she sings, as she really sounds like Beyoncé and not Nala anymore.

Billy Eichner (Timon) captured the witty sense of humour of the original Timon and gets most of the funniest lines that he delivers in a very sarcastic way. Seth Rogen as Pumbaa is hilarious. The duo light up every scene they’re in.

I would like to mention a reference to the classic during “Hakuna Matata”. In the original, Pumbaa explains why he’s been rejected by the other animals and Timon stops him in the middle of his speech: “Pumbaa, not in front of the kid!”. He doesn’t in this version, and Pumbaa asks him “Are you gonna stop me?”. I thought this was a clever and funny reference that only people who saw the film several times would get!

Finally, the arrangements of the new versions of the songs are a little different and more modern but still in the spirit of the original ones. I only regret that Scar’s one “Be prepared” is a lot shorter here as it has an interesting dramatic dimension in the first version that could have been exploited more in the remake.

And thank God, they kept the wonderful and irreplaceable orchestral music by Hans Zimmer, which is just as moving now as the first time I heard it. His work on the film is his masterpiece to me.

Jon Favreau said in a documentary about the film that they wanted to capture what people’s memory was of the original Lion King with both the music and the imagery. He also wanted to maintain the spirit while showing something new and surprising.

Well I guess it sums up pretty well my feelings about this beautiful remake.

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