The new "Lion King" is visually stunning. That's what was said to everyone who saw the film in Los Angeles at the premiere and some critics in New York.
But now, critics are officially released and the restart of the 1994 well-loved animated film by Jon Favreau is being swept away. The critics and contributors of Rotten Tomatoes gave him a score of 57. I agree with this figure.
The new "Lion King", I'm sorry to say, is dark and dark. This is not the animated celebration of life created for the stage by Julie Taymor, nor the colorful and vibrant explosion of love seen in the original film.
Instead, this "Lion King" features live lions, cubs, hyenas, mixed with CGI characters. Caleb Deschanel, who has just won an Oscar for the masterpiece "Never Look Away", found only grays and blues on this track, not the butter yellows, violets and reds that I I saw on two trips to southern Africa. Indeed, nothing in "The Lion King" seems African. It looks corporate.
What a strange turn of events for Favreau and company. It was not necessary to redo "The Lion King" other than siphon more money. At least with "Aladdin", Disney could bring characters to life through animation. But giving life to jungle animals is another story. You can bring a cub in the water but you can not drink it. Or smile. The result is that "The Lion King" looks like a National Geographic documentary with a narration somehow synchronized with close-ups.
But these animals are not observed, like "The Bear" of Jean-Jacques Annaud. They are manipulated to "act". Some take the lead, others not so much. I guess in some scenes, when there are stampedes, etc., it's exciting. But two lions hang out without chatting, it's weird.
Then there is music. Animals can not really play, nor can they be choreographed. Beyonce and Donald Glover sing it, but the lack of life can not be ignored. The song that comes out best is Elton John's new song, "Never Too Late", because it exceeds the credits. You do not have to watch anyone execute it.
This does not mean that "The Lion King" will not be a success. It will be. People will go – for the brand. They will go for Beyonce's participation. I've actually found the release of the story of Mufasa moved, strangely, because James Earl Jones and Chewetel Ejiofor are put to it thoroughly. And, of course, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner make the most of the relief comic characters, Pumaa and Timon.
As for James Earl Jones, one last word: he is remarkable. A quarter of a century ago he was Mufasa and he is doing it now. He sets up the movie. It's really acting. It's not only that his rumbling baritone is comforting as maple syrup, but it still commands. Whatever emotions present in "The Lion King" emanate from him. He has already received the Oscars and Awards SAG honorific. Is there anything we can do for him? We are impressed and in debt.