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My Thoughts on the upcoming Lion King remake.

(This is my first blog piece about my thoughts of an upcoming film. I'll try to do this more in the future as well as classic movie reviews as well).

I usually try to be open minded about remakes, adaptations, and sequels, I really do. I really enjoyed the Disney Cinderella and Jungle Book live action remakes for instance.

I also always look forward to a film by Jon Favreau because he's made a lot of fun movies like Iron Man, Elf, and the recent Jungle Book remake. Even his less well received work like Zathura and Cowboys and Aliens.
But now, Disney is announcing that Favreau is going to be directing a live-action remake, that I just can't see working out: The Lion King.

I'll get my personal bias out of the way and say that The Lion King is not only my favorite animated Disney film of all time, but also my favorite overall movie of all time. However, this is not the reason for me putting the movie down so early.

Rather, its for two main reasons: the visual aesthetic and the voice acting.
With the visual aesthetic of the other Disney live action remakes, those worked because live action versions of the stories in those movies had been done before and done well, and I was curious to see what kind of visual flair Disney and the directors that they picked for that remake would give to it.
Those live action remakes also had at least one physical human actor on screen that helped sell and ground the idea of it being live action.

With a live action version of The Lion King, however, that is not the case. The Lion King, despite taking inspiration from Shakespeare, is its own unique film that was hand animated, and other than the sequels, games, and tv series in its franchise, has never been remade outside of that.
The style in the animated Lion King allowed the filmmakers to tell the story in a creative way, with the feelings and tone of mysticism, mythology, and cartoony humor encapsulated in the shell of a nature documentary.
With the live-action version, however, its all animal characters, which means most likely photo realistic CGI (technically still an animated movie.) Because of that, I have a feeling only the nature documentary aspect would come through most effectively. Don't get me wrong: photo realistic CGI characters have been done well both physically and emotionally in other movies: Smeagel/Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, the Na'vi in Avatar, and even all the animals in the Jungle Book live action remake.

However, speaking of the Jungle Book remake, this restricts those characters or even the story from doing the more cartoony and supernatural elements effectively. When Jon Favreau made the live action Jungle Book, he tried to keep some of the original elements from the animated version in, like the songs. Because he did that though, the scenes that included those elements came off as awkward and even ruining the moment in his version (Christopher Walken as a menacing King Louie starts singing "I Wanna Be Like You" out of nowhere).
Part of what made Favreau's live action Jungle Book work so well though was when he pulled away from being faithful to the animated version and doing his own thing (Mowgli saying goodbye to the wolf pack and his adoptive mother, Raksha in the rain being a top example of that).

Going onto the voices, while I'm sure Favreau and his crew will try their absolute best to find effective actors for the roles in the live action Lion King, with the animated version, I think the crew on that film absolutely nailed the casting. When I bring up the following list of actors, their roles in the animated Lion King is immediately what I think of: James Earl Jones...that's Mufasa! Jonathan Taylor Thomas....that's Young Simba! Nathan Lane...That's Timon! Jeremy Irons...that's Scar! (etcetera, etcetera.) (In fact, that's kind of the same feeling i had with Phil Harris as the animated Baloo, with it feeling awkward when I heard Bill Murray as Baloo in the live action version, besides the fact that Murray has such a distinct voice).

Now this is just initial impressions from a news announcement and I could be wrong: Favreau and his team are effective and really good filmmakers and they made the live action Jungle Book mostly work, but with the Lion King, it feels like a different situation: the mysticism, mythology, cartoon humor, and nature documentary feel were such an integral part of the animated version's story and atmosphere, that if they pull too much away from those elements, they'll lose what made the film great and if they stick too closely to those elements, it'll just be a retread of the original version. Even if they find a middle ground, I can't help but feel I'll be asking: what's the point?
I'll still watch the film when it comes out but still.


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