- Disney’s reimagining of “The Lion King” will be released on Friday, July 19.
- Critics are saying that the film’s biggest strength is the stunning visuals, but that’s also a major weakness.
- The animals look so realistic that their faces lack the emotions seen clearly in the original 1994 animated movie.
- Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen also provide stand-out performances as Timon and Pumbaa.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Disney’s next film to hit the big screen is “The Lion King,” a reimagining of the classic 1994 movie that featured the Oscar-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and an original score that also earned an Academy Award.
Like the original, the latest iteration of “The Lion King” also focuses on Simba’s journey to become king. The film, directed by Jon Favreau, features a star-studded cast comprised of Donald Glover (Simba), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar), Beyoncé (Nala), and Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), to name a few.
Critics have largely agreed that the film is filled with beautiful, stunning visuals and shot-for-shot recreations of iconic moments from the ’90s movie.
“The opening sequence is one of several iconic moments from the movie that’s reimagined so perfectly you may get chills,”INSIDER’s Kirsten Acuna wrote in her review. “If I didn’t know the lions were CGI, I would have believed they were real.”
The film currently has a 61% on Rotten Tomatoes, but is subject to change closer to the release date. Here’s what critics are saying so far.
The quality is so superb that it sometimes feels as though you’re watching a documentary
“It isn’t just the gorgeous backdrops that trick the eye but the wildlife, from lions with rippling ribs to rhinoceros beetles with whirring wings. Some mental readjustment is required when the animals, as regal and impassive as anything in a National Geographic documentary, start talking.” –Rafer Guzmán, Newsday
“It’s an impressive leap in visual effects, which included Favreau, cinematographer Caleb Descehanel and VFX chief Rob Legato making use of virtual-reality environments. Some of the computer-generated makeovers are beautiful. Mufasa, the lion king voiced again by James Earl Jones, is wondrously regal, and his mane might be the most majestic blonde locks since Robert Redford. And the grass stalks of the pride lands shimmer in the African sunlight.” – Jake Coyle, AP
“Disney has produced one of its most impressive-looking films with ‘The Lion King.’ Any fears that the film would feel stilted or repetitious are resolved within moments of the first song. It’s genuinely a marvel to behold at times, from the smallest animals to the biggest set pieces.” –Brandon Zachary, CBR
But the movie lacks emotion because of the visuals
“Throughout the movie, there are stirring proclamations and heated encounters. But because of the realistic nature of this version of the story, the animals’ mouths move but there are little to no facial expressions. Favreau even has said that he didn’t do any facial motion-capture effects of the actors specifically so the animal’s movements (including their faces) were as realistic as possible. That’s where I feel the movie loses some of its emotion.” – Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider
“Because the film tries to stay so faithful to the Oscar-winning classic, there are moments that just don’t hold the emotional weight of the film as well as the original. Unlike the animated version, realistic-looking lions don’t really emote.” – Kirsten Acuna, INSIDER
“The characters are arch, but most of them now lack the expressive body language and sympathetic facial movements needed to sell their performances. They just stand there and deliver their lines with relatively blank expressions, relying on the human actors to add inflection, like levity or menace. Their bodies are realistic, but their animated performances are frequently stodgy and unconvincing.” – William Bibbiani, The Wrap
“At first, it looks as if the lions are telepathic, and then they seem so badly dubbed that you wish they had been. The more adorable characters are easier to believe, as their cuteness allows for an extra dash of anthropomorphized fun, but the vocal performances aren’t equipped to carry the emotional weight that the hand-drawn animation once expressed on its own.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa, respectively, are scene-stealers
“Seth Rogen’s carefree chortle and natural flair for self-deprecation make him the best possible Pumbaa, while Billy Eichner reveals his Broadway-worthy talents as the newly theatrical Timon.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“Ultimately, only Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, as slacker sidekicks Timon and Pumbaa, make much of an impression; their funny, possibly ad-libbed banter feels both fresh and true to the spirit of the characters-the perfect remake recipe.” – A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
“Rogen and Eichner’s riffing sessions result in a fair amount of fresh material, and an overall even-more-likable version of these two beloved characters.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
“They’re a scene-stealing duo whose comic relief goes a long way toward softening some of the movie’s harsher angles and brightening some of its duskier corners.” – Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
Some of the musical numbers miss the mark
“Scar’s jaunty villain anthem ‘Be Prepared’ has been totally gutted, whereas the Oscar-winning ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ now unfolds during the day, for some reason.” –A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
“The song from Elton John and Tim Rice isn’t so much a song as a speech from Scar that crescendos into a mix between the villain shouting and singing. The problem isn’t Ejiofor. The last few seconds of the song with him belting out the words ‘Be Prepared’ are its best.” – Kirsten Acuna, INSIDER
“While numbers like ‘Be Prepared’ and Pumbaa and Timon’s gaseous rendition of ‘Hakuna Matata’ retain their charm, the songs too are uneven in this new ‘Lion King.’ Glover and Beyoncé’s duet of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ is, as a piece of audio, utterly glorious, and yet it has little impact onscreen (where, for some reason, it’s performed in total daylight), because neither Simba nor Nala has come through as an engaging character.” –Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
“The Lion King” hits theatres on Friday, July 19. Watch the film’s trailer below.