If you grew up in the 90’s, it was difficult to escape Lion King and it’s many charming spin-offs. As part of Disney’s ongoing strategy to revive many of classic franchises, Lion King has received a photo-realistic rehash and I got a chance to see the film at their UAE premiere in Dubai Mall.
The new film brings the stunning landscapes of Africa to the fore with all the animals re-imagined in fantastic CGI form with a star-studded voice-over cast including Donald Glover (whom many of us know better as Childish Gambino), Beyonce, Seth Rogen and my favourite late-night talk show host John Oliver.
Jon Favreau’s film takes off with the classic Circle of Life tune and pretty much follows the original frame-to-frame with some injection of extra humor to keep the story going. There’s a few additional scenes, including a powerful exchange between Sarabi (Simba’s mother) and Nala, that add much needed weight to the story while Hans Zimmer’s orchestral score is spell-binding.
The Beyhive will rejoice too as Beyonce’s Nala gets more screentime to shine through while two new catchy songs (including Beyonce’s powerful new anthem Spirit) add more gravitas. As with the cartoons,the beloved characters of Billy Eichner’s Timon and Seth Rogen’s Pumba bring the right dose of laughs to some of the movie’s darker themes. Donald Glover’s voicework as Simba, however, fails to impress but his vocals do shine through in all his songs
If you’re hoping for a rehash or a great twist to the story then you might be in for a disappointment. But if you’re a Disney purist that wants to see a worthy remake of a storied classic then the Lion King will be right up your valley. Younger kids who didn’t get to enjoy the earlier movies will truly appreciate the visually-breathtaking imagery too.
Highs: The stunning CGI and African landscapes, Beyonce’s voice, the movie’s sticks to a solid formula
Lows: The remake brings nothing new to the series