December 15, 2019 – I did not go to see this in the theater, but did rent the blu-ray when it came time to review the year's best animated films for awards voting. While the story, and the music, are pretty much the same as the original 1994 film (it has been so long since I've seen the original, I did not notice the differences, but there are some) this new film is a real technical marvel in its own right.
I honestly thought some of the scenery, at least, in this film was shot live, and maybe some of the animal sequences, as well, but according to my research, this movie was all green screen motion-capture and computer-generated imagery. The landscapes were all CGI, but they all look real. It is amazing what they created in this movie using virtual reality tools.
Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) directs this computerized remake of the original animated film, which is reportedly partially inspired by the Broadway musical based on the same original film. It opens with the same electrifying musical “Circle of Life” sequence, with the baby lion who will be king, Simba, being held high atop a rock outcropping by Rafiki, the mandrill shaman (who speaks Xhosa at times).
Chased away from the Pride by the treachery of his father's brother, Scar, Simba spends years in exile. Everyone assumes he is dead. Meanwhile, King Scar and his hyena army have laid waste to the Pride Lands. A young lioness, Nala, sneaks away, looking for help beyond the borders of the Pride Lands. She finds it, eventually, with Simba.
Simba has been living with his friends, Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog, who live by the motto “no worries” (or “hakuna matata” in Swahili). Simba has found a new home and does not want to return to his Pride Lands to battle Scar in order to win leadership of the Pride. He doesn't feel like a leader. A visit from his departed father, King Mufasa, and the wise shaman Rafiki, persuades him to return to the Pride Lands to fight Scar and the hyenas.
This story is built on old ideas, like the divine right of kings, where leaders don't earn the right to rule, they are born to it. In this story, though, Simba does have to earn the title of King in mortal combat. It is also based on the old idea of destiny, where Simba is destined to be rescued from his trial in the desert and then to return years later to free his Pride from bondage, like Moses. These story ideas are old, but they still have some power.
I was not a big fan of the original 1994 movie, and I found this one to be about the same. It is a good film, with a good story and good music. It makes sense for Disney to remake the original, since these remakes make a lot of money, but the remakes aren't really needed from an artistic standpoint. What sets this film apart, however, is the technical wizardry that makes it look so much like a live action film. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.