This year marks the 25th anniversary of Disney’s timeless hit The Lion King, and the new live action version is now roaring at cinemas worldwide. With all the remakes of classics that have turned into an ongoing trend, is The Lion King 2019 worth your money, especially when the 1994 original that impressed 5 year-old me the first time I watched it in the theater is still a box office king?
As a massive The Lion King fan who has dedicated my time to devouring the entire trilogy countless times, drawing fanart, writing fanfics and collecting tons of merch, I was one of those viewers who initially doubted this remake but later found it surprisingly fresh, stunning and compelling. Simba and friends are definitely worth revisiting in CGI format thanks to director Jon Favreau and his vision to use technology to create real talking animals with stunning African shots. The key is to treat this new, updated film as an additional version that complements the original, just like the theater production that has become a Broadway sensation it even has international tours.
Plot wise, The Lion King 2019 bears a closer resemblance to Hamlet, the Shakespearan tragedy that inspired the 1994 movie, with Scar’s murderous nature being shown since his very first scene. Such a commanding acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He can easily hold his own against the great James Earl Jones, who makes a grand comeback as King Mufasa. The design for Scar also enhances his villainous quality, giving him that dangerous look from the get go.
I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m super impressed by the new voice cast. To me, these names are as great as the original. Donald Glover makes the perfect Simba, and both his line deliveries and singing voice are pure magic. He has demonstrated his acting prowess with his roles in Atlanta, Solo (my personal favorite) and many other prominent projects, so I’m definitely all for him as Simba. Beyonce as my top favorite character Nala is another inspired casting, and I completely understand why she got picked – she is fierce and daring like Nala is. Alfre Woodard makes a wonderful Sarabi. Very commanding and queenly. I appreciate the extended scenes Sarabi was given. Her interactions with Scar during his reign at Pride Rock provided some backstory elements that we didn’t get to see much in the original version. John Oliver as Zazu is as entertaining as the marvelous Rowan Atkinson.
The biggest surprise of the movie for me and many others on social media is the casting of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as the iconic meerkat and warthog duo Timon and Pumbaa. In my opinion, both are the best Disney duo to have ever existed and my personal favorites. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella will always be irreplaceable, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since, but Billy and Seth have proven that they’re equally fantastic, and together they create compelling comedy. I’ve seen a lot of Billy’s works on TV, but Timon is his best role to date, and I honestly think The Lion King should be a vehicle for him to get even more film roles. The guy is hilarious but also charismatic. He even has Oscar buzz! Plus his singing voice is really stunning he should sing in more movies or even make an album. Note to Disney: can we have both The Lion King 1/2 and Simba’s Pride turned into remakes? We want the entire trilogy. And on top of that, it’s about time we get a new Timon and Pumbaa TV series. More Billy and Seth, please. I love how closer to the actual African animals the CGI characters are in terms of movement and behavior. Timon mostly uses his four legs to walk compared to the original animation, and that is super adorable to see.
All in all, The Lion King is a majestic cinematic treat and captures the regal quality of the original 1994 film. By far Disney’s best live action remake along with Aladdin. Get your tickets now and be transported back to Africa to witness the universe of Pride Rock in an all-new way.
Photo Credits: Walt Disney Studios