The Lion King (2019): Delectable Tea or Deadly Poison?

Roman R. '21

The Lion King (2019) was a live-action remake made by Disney based upon their original film from 1994.

While the film was financially successful, making over $1.6 billion dollars worldwide according to IMDb. At the same time, however, it received a mere 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Why is that? 

This review will be broken down into segments: performances, plot, characters,  music, and visuals. It will start with the least problematic parts, to the most. 

Performances: All of the actors involved in the film did seem to care deeply about the product they were a part of, and seemed to make the most of the script they were given. Particular note can be made of Chiwetel Ejiofor, who voiced Scar. His performance was much different than the original voice of Scar, Jermey Irons, but still very enjoyable for the most part. His “song” Be Prepared is another story, and will be discussed later on.

Plot: The plot of The Lion King(2019) is nearly identical to the plot of the original film, following the exact same story beats in the same order with only mild changes in the dialogue here and there throughout the film, along with stretching out many scenes.

Characters: The characters in The Lion King(2019) were broadly the same, with minor changes, with a few exceptions. Simba, at least in his childhood, is a little less whiny than the original, but in return comes off as more entitled. Nala, Mufasa, Timon, and Pumbaa are all very similar to their original interpretations. 

The one very different character that is very different is Scar, who unlike the original does not come off as sly or quietly sinister as much as he comes off as much more openly and loudly aggressive in his actions. This is not exactly negative, it is a different interpretation of his character, but it is not a change I personally like very much. 

Music: The songs in the film are okay at best, and painful compared to their originals at worst. The best-sounding and best-looking song is definitely Can You Feel the Love Tonight, for it was well performed and the visuals were interesting. 

The next best one was Hakuna Matata for the same reasons. It’s not an improvement, but not a negative change either. 

I cannot say the same about the other two songs in the film. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King is visually boring(especially compared to how creative and colorful the original was) and the performances were not great either. The actors sounded bored while singing a song that is supposed to be the peak of enthusiasm within the film.

The greatest offense, in my opinion, is The Lion King (2019)’s version of the iconic villain song, Be Prepared. The original song was catchy, sinister, powerful, and explained Scar’s plan to usurp Mufasa perfectly. In the remake, Scar spends almost the entire song shouting the lyrics, at least the ones that weren’t cut out entirely, instead of singing. The visuals are absolutely abysmal, but will be discussed later on. Disney took one of their most iconic, and in my opinion, best villain songs, and warped it into what sounds like little more than a drunken rant by Scar to the hyenas. As I mentioned before, however, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance does deserve credit, because he did try his best with the “song” he was given.

Visuals: The reason I greatly dislike the visual aspect of this film is very simple. It is simply the fact that it is live action at all. The Lion King as a story, as a piece of media, only works in the medium of animation. I am going to go through all the previous categories to explain why I hold this opinion.

Performances: While the actors give their all to bring these characters to life in their own, interesting way, the movie’s visuals automatically make this significantly more difficult. This is due to how inexpressive the characters are. Since the film is attempting realism, it cannot allow to stylize its characters expressions or mannerisms to help display emotion or emphasize dialogue.

Characters: The visual aspect of this film affects the characters in more ways than one. And the main way this happens is through the character design. In the original, the characters were exaggerated to emphasize parts of their personalities. Pumbaa, for example, was displayed as hugely round to make him look kind and soft. But in the remade film Pumbaa looks simply like any other warthog, thanks to the movie attempting realism. Therefore, the audience can learn nothing about him through his design. 

Plot: The visuals effect on the plot is not only that the design and devotion to realism means that the environments cannot be as vibrant or change colors to display mood. The cinematography of the film is also lackluster, directly copying many shots from the original film, and when that isn’t the case the shots are oddly edited, with many zooms into the character’s inexpressive faces, and poorly-placed slow motion effects.

Music: This is where, in my opinion, the visuals make the greatest offense, and it’s not only within this film. It is my greatest issue with all of the live-action Disney films I’ve seen. This is because films are visual media, and a simply well-performed song is not enough for one. 

In every song, from the acceptable nature shots from Can You Feel the Love Tonight to the horrendously boring and dark visuals of Be Prepared, not once, in any of the songs, do the visuals add anything of value to the songs.

In the original film, colors and environments were allowed to change entirely to help convey the mood of the song in question. In I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, the environment shifts into a kaleidoscope of colors to display the feeling of the children’s imaginations. In Be Prepared, the use of lime green and smoke, to harsh yellows and finally deep red, all contributes to the sinister and evil tone of the song and presents Scar as the threat he has been foreshadowed as until that point.

In the live action film, none of this is possible because of the need to make everything look “realistic.”



As a final verdict, I would definitely not recommend this film to anyone. It was obviously created so that Disney could squeeze even more money from one of their most iconic films, not at all for the art of filmmaking or even attempting to do the original justice. 2/10, do not bother watching this film, it will only encourage Disney to continue creating mediocre copies of their past works.