I’m sorry. I wanted to love The Lion King. Especially since it’s set in Africa. I tried so hard. It features South Africa’s own John Kani as the voice of Rafaki. But the film was disappointing in so many respects… writes Cassie Jo.
As most of South Africa knows by now, Walt Disney’s newly revamped Lion King opens in cinemas around the country on Friday (19 July). It retells the much loved story of Simba, the lion, which first came out in 1994.
Visually the film is beautiful. It’s Africa. The sunsets. The waterholes. The sweeping vistas. All stunning.
But from the start there were problems. A few of the opening scenes – particularly one with a mouse that wanders into Scar’s den – are haphazard and messy. The mouse was often half-cut from the shot and the running scenes would give anyone a headache. (And I’m 21, not 91.)
The wildlife itself is also not quite realistic enough… and when it is, it’s a little unnerving watching lions talk and sing like Beyonce (Nala) and Donald Glover (Simba), not to mention the lifelike hyenas.
The movie simply lacks character and emotion. The scenes between the young Simba and his father Mufasa don’t feel natural. In fact the impression is that it’s all poorly staged. The conversations are stilted, brief. (Most of the original dialogue has been retained, but what worked for animation doesn’t gel with this mix of virtual reality and digital imagery, and it’s as if not enough thought was put into the new script.)
Additionally, the musical scenes are awkward and badly placed.
The whole thing made me cringe. After an hour I could take it no longer. I walked out. I had to. Sitting there, watching that film, had been time-consumingly dull.
I’m passionate about Africa, and about wildlife, and was hoping to find the beloved animated film from my childhood reconstructed in an even better version, but instead all I saw was a lot more effort invested in special effects than in a moving story being retold.
Unfortunately for the film, it’s not just me who felt that way. Here’s a sample of other reviews:
Todd McCarty, Hollywood Reporter: “Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem pre-digested. There’s nary a surprise in the whole two hours.” (Some of the scenes are shot for shot a recreation of the original.)
Scott Mendelson, Forbes.com: “Be prepared for a crushing disappointment.”
lissa Wilkinson, Vox.com: “A bloated retread without a reason.”
Peter Debruge, Variety on why Disney “bothered” to make this film: “The answer can be spelled in dollars.”
According to Reuters, the 1994 film was a “$968 million global smash that spurred a long-running Broadway stage show and more than 20 international productions”.
Most critics agree that despite the new film being a disappointment it’s still likely to perform well at the box office, with the opening figures for this weekend in North American cinemas expected to be around $150-million.
The Hollywood Reporter’s McCarthy predicts it will be “duly gobbled up by audiences everywhere like the perfectly prepared corporate meal it is.”
For my part, I hope that I’ve lowered your expectations enough that you may actually enjoy the film!
P.S. Some South African expats have loved the film. Linda McFadden in New Zealand said: “Saw it last night here in Auckland, made me miss home! Loved the movie…!”