This movie chooses to make its characters sing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” in the middle of the afternoon. That’s it. That’s all there is to know.
Actually, no, it isn’t, but a mistake as idiotic as this one does say a lot about what to expect from the rest of the film. Bad doesn’t even begin to describe it — soulless would be more accurate. Timon and Pumbaa are no longer easy-going sidekicks but straight up nihilists. Zuzu is just John Oliver acting as John Oliver. The hyenas are unfunny despite getting both Eric André and Keegan Michael-Key on board. And more importantly, Simba is no longer a hero. Mufasa is no longer inspiring. Scar is no longer scary. They’re just lions. Lions with Beyoncé’s voice sometimes, yes, but lions all the same.
What Disney spent years marketing as this remake’s biggest appeal ends up being its most obvious weakness. Have you ever looked at a lion ? They don’t smile. They don’t cry. They don’t talk. They just look like lions. The photorealistic style doesn’t help the characters in the slightest. Who cares if a computer can render the perfect hair blowing in the wind if it can’t make us care about anything else? That isn’t even touching upon how horrendous the rest of the film looks. This is entirely animated; how can the lighting be off? Would it have killed someone to turn the brightness up?
What’s left once the film can no longer play the photorealistic card is… Not much of anything. The story is still the same, with some nonsense added into it for good measure. It gets rid of most of its songs for no good reason and the ones that do make the cut get the dullest covers possible. You have Donald Glover and Beyoncé for fuck’s sake! Do something with them!
The star-studded cast combined with the film’s absence of any consideration for them shows exactly what’s so infuriating about The Lion King. It has things that we should care about in theory: revolutionary technology, talented people in front and behind the camera, a beloved childhood classic. Yet the hideous truth can’t be denied: it doesn’t care about any of it. What it does care about is the quality halo it gave the film during its promotion, and the amount of people that went to see it afterwards. There’s no nice way to say this: not a single thing about the movie was motivated by something other than money. It is such a cashgrab that it should be the dictionary example for the word. The only positive thing about it might be that it never tried to pretend it was anything else. The sad thing about that? Audiences gave it an ungodly amount of attention all the same. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of an era of even more cynical remakes banking on audience nostalgia. But knowing where Disney is headed, that’s more than unlikely.