Furry Hamlet - The Lion King (REVIEW)
written by Dominique Thomas (@afroductions)
If a lion roars in the theatre and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?
I want to start with 2 points:
I have seen all the Disney Remakes spare Dumbo. Until July 18th, 2019, I defended all their creations. No, they are not perfect. They are not the versions of the stories I grew up with but remake culture has been around as long as entertainment has and who knows, maybe one will leap above its station and spook us all. AND…
The Lion King being told by a 4-year-old in a sandpit with plastic toys from the dollar store and flashlight is still a better movie than 75% of all movies ever made. Full stop.
Now I will ask you to listen to why I think that this Lion King is not worth the ticket price. A sentence that breaks my heart more than you know.
First off was the child test. My Wonder-Spawn has always had a keen mind for story and wonder. They have also been a staunch critic of entertainment aimed at them with the first movie they ever asked to leave being Pixars’ “Planes”. The second one was phenomenal. Before “Hakuna Matta”, they had already used the bathroom three times, a thin veil for wasting time and not wanting to run around in the nearly empty theatre at the midnight showing that fateful July 19th. From there it was all downhill. The what feels like 80-90% shot for the shot remake was trodden ground. I had to agree. It was the moment that Simba was running after Rafiki to the pool to see his Cloud Earl Jones was the moment that stood out the hardest for me. The vine for vine shot made it feel cheap. Recycled storyboards with new animators. I had to ask “Why? Was this really worth the production and talent costs?” I get being afraid of changing the greatest work you have ever made. There was no way we were all going to be accepting of this unless it was broken into a three-part trilogy Lord of the Rings style. Don’t get it twisted it is still 8th in the charts for opening weekends right under Black Panther so this was a movie we anticipated. We Begged for this film and it’s cast. The Only Donald and Queen B playing in the jungle and standing off against Chiwetel Ejiofor was and is still the dream. But where the mayo seems to sour was in the pacing and editing.
The Lion King was defined by its colorful characters and immersive world. The Pride Land was a vast and colorful place with a lowkey shamanistic undertone that dazzled and wondered its viewers. Cat people everywhere had finally gotten a cat movie to rival that of Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller. But this 2019 remake seemed to be bored with its own story. I cut the movie into Pre and Post Hakuna because everything that happened before Hakuna seemed to be cliff notes. Every line happened at the period of the line before it; seems that the animation budget was blown on anime flappy lion lips before they could do establishing shots. I get the new tech flex of photorealistic lions, it does work, but the stage that all these things danced on was cardboard. The elephant graveyard was flat. The Pride Land had a light but no wonder or sense of play. I honestly forgot that it did not look like it did from Simba leaving and coming back. Rafiki, the Shaman and religious icon of the world, was only given flair as a nostalgia bump in the final fight. Every moment was trapped in the length of the lines and the camera had better things to do than to show us why we should care. There were very few moments to breathe or feel or cry or gasp or you might miss the next line. Moments (with a capital M) make magic. But in this mad dash from credits to credits, The Lion King really crunched the audience’s ability to connect.
On the acting. I don’t feel like I can wholly judge the performances. On stage this would have been terrible but how can you hold actors to task when any form of a moment is in the hands of the editors. In the end, I didn’t care. SPARE ONE. Devil’s due, Billy Eichner’s depiction of Timon gives us the exit from Ludicrous Speed, Plaid, to regular Windows’ screen saver hyperspace nonsense. Giving Scar the Reverse Thanos treatment into an angry black lion from a scheming usurper had worn thin by Be Prepared. But when a small meerkat rolled onstage stripped of flouncy joy and replaced with the existential dread of student loan debts chewed up the scenery. We even got to hear the word fart. 2019 everyone. Billy hit the ground running and is definitely the kid that did their homework and the group project. He even gave top billing to the cool kids and I hope he got to go to the big school dance after-prom party.
I hate this. I am sitting here in a post-Lion King world feeling the Haterism of other “Anti-Disney remake” people leaking into me… over what on paper should have been a romp.
I give this movie a C. It still gets to graduate but it’s older brother was Magna Cum Laude and it now has to go work for them in the mailroom of their tech startup. C’s get degrees. But Mufasa is looking down on us with a super disappointed lion face and refuses to pay for our grad school until we figure our life out.
Lacking and flat…