THE LION King is the latest Disney movie to get the live action treatment, but it is not live action. No lions were filmed for this. It is entirely computer generated. So it is animation?
The story remains the same. This is Hamlet for children, and Simba, the young prince, is exiled from his fathers kingdom after his uncle’s coup d’état. Visually this is a triumph. You almost expect to hear David Attenborough’s voice. Despite this, it feels slightly soulless.
You give up the cartoony expressive faces when you turn to 'live' action and it lacked the emotion of the original hand drawn version. The opening moments with the animals coming to Simba's christening at Pride Rock is not nearly as exciting or breathtaking as it was in the original.
However it has got an all time great cast list. Unfortunately the two leads, Beyoncé and Donald Glover, struggle massively as Nala and Simba. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fine as Scar but does not hold a candle to Jeremy Irons, the voice in the original version. Voice acting is a separate skill from screen/stage acting. You cannot just get together singers and stage actors and expect them to be great. Far and away the best part of the movie is Timoon (Seth Rogan ) and Pumba (Billy Eichner ) who do a fantastic job and make the characters their own.
'This will not be a seminal moment in many children’s lives like the original Lion King was'
One of the other issues I have with the film is, making it 'live' action means you question the plot more: Is Scar's plan really terrible? How many years is Simba banished for? Where are the other male lions? Are they all one family? Is Nala Simba's sister? The songs also suffer. They simply are not as much fun as the original. 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' is my personal favourite from the original, but here it is forgettable.
That said, talk to parents and you discover that children do not really like hand drawn animation. It is a bit rich, as an adult, to tell children, 'No you shouldn’t like this, you should like what I liked.' I think this movie will probably work for kids, however I do not think it will be a seminal moment in many children’s lives like the original Lion King was. I think this movie is actually a real testament how successful an adaptation Julie Taymor’s Lion King stage play was.
Overall the movie feels like a cover song. Technically brilliant but just lacking the heart and soul that made the original so special. A bit like when Ronan Keating covered 'To Make You Feel My Love' - technically fine and clearly money thrown at it but it had no soul.