"The Lion King" is an animated remake of the 1994 film, but a photorealistic computer animation, so it looks like a real action, except that the lions speak and their mouths move exactly as they could. It's a different kind of "Lion King", for better or for worse.
The opening scene is pretty close to glorious. We see pelicans taking off, running giraffes, then elephants all converging on a rocky plain. And then we see a couple of lions and their new cub who presents himself to the crowd below as the next lion king. The assembled animals seem happy, even the zebras, who seem not to be embarrassed for dinner, but for us, in the public, there is something that hinders the progress of the trial. It's the song. "The circle of life."
Suddenly, the song sounds like a bad 90s music out of date, aggravated by an investment of false emotion. The song seems to have nothing to do with animals. Here is Noah's ark of beautiful and remarkable specimens of life, then comes this song as an intrusion of the country of money, of the country of the soundtrack. This music does not belong here or in any other part of this movie.
Here is the thing that is strange. I saw the theatrical version of "The Lion King" about a year ago and I never realized that there was a problem with the music. It is therefore a question of context. There is something about music right here who feels bad, as opposed to his place in an animated musical or a Broadway show.
This highlights the danger of switching from one media to another: change one thing and you have to change other things, because now the other things mean something different. In a sense, when you watch an animation or a musical with animal characters, you receive it as a fable. You know that you do not see what is represented, but a stylized version of it. The songs, in this context, increase the fable and help fill in the parts that have to be filled by the viewer's imagination.
But the new "Lion King" does not look like a fable. On the contrary, it looks like a wildlife documentary. It seems, to give the appropriate credit, absolutely amazing. It makes you think that animals can talk. Indeed, it makes you believe that to such an extent that you stop being impressed by it and stop seeing it as something unusual. It could be unfair, but that's what the computer geniuses are getting to be so brilliant.
Alas, the negative result is that the songs look like stuff like ice cream on a steak or a spaghetti sauce on a waffle. Who wants to watch this, let alone consume it?
Moreover, the moments that made sense were absolutely right. For example, Simba's father, Mufasa, is murdered by his evil brother, Scar. Simba finds himself alone in the desert, where he meets a warthog and a meerkat, who tell him "Hakuna Matata", which apparently means "no worries". And soon, all three are singing "no worries", and all is well.
But no, that's not right, because we've just seen a real lion – not a cartoon lion, nor a musical actor in a headdress – being murdered. And no mediocre song by Tim Rice-Elton John in 1994 will make us feel that way. In the musical, that was D & # 39; AGREEMENT. In the cartoon animation, it was good. But in this version? It's as if we had just seen the movie Zapruder and in the next scene Jackie Kennedy sang "I was in the right place (but it was the wrong time)". You think that they must all be crazy.
Also, what's wrong with Mustafa (the voice of James Earl Jones)? The whole family, including Simba (Donald Glover), has an American sound, but Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has an English accent. Mustafa do not know that the guy with the English accent is still the bad guy? He is supposed to be a great king. He should be able to see Scar coming from a mile and a half.
Such things – things we might never have thought of before – are the consequences of a story leaving the fresh shadow of the fable in the light of realism. The result is an amazing movie to watch, sometimes inspiring, but dramatically strange. Obviously, this technology has its place, but it makes a statement too strong to be used casually in remakes.
The"The Lion King": Computer-animated drama. With Donald Glover, James Earl Jones and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed by Jon Favreau. Theaters and schedules. (PG 118 minutes.)