I attended a free Advance Screening in exchange for my honest opinion.
The Lion King, a musical and dramatic film based on the 1994 animated feature of the same name, is made with computer-generated imagery which makes the animals and setting appear real. So real, you may feel you’re on the savanna in the Pride Lands with the animals. With an all-star cast and a few up-and-coming actors, James Earl Jones returns to voice Mufasa. The animal characters are the same, but the new voices combined with the “live action” of the animals takes the imagery to a whole new level. We saw the movie in IMAX 2D.
Opening in the savanna, the film begins after the birth of Simba and his introduction to the kingdom by Rafiki. We also see the dark side of Scar when he is summoned to meet Simba. The Lion King forwards to Simba being an older cub playing with Nala and learning she will be his future queen. Mufasa teaches Simba about the Circle of Life and they observe the Pride Lands from atop Pride Rock. Mufasa reminds Simba the importance of protecting those within and avoiding the lands in the dark shadows. Simba is tempted by the forbidden, and Scar uses the temptation to trick Simba into going to the elephant graveyards. With Nala, Simba explores the desolate land until they meet the hyenas, a much darker portrayal from the original animated classic. Surrounded, they are saved when Zazu alerts Mufasa who extricates them.
After Mufasa’s rescue, Simba is once again lectured, and father and son play and have an important lesson while looking at the stars. Still jealous of Mufasa and Simba while coveting the throne, Scar convinces the hyenas to help him overtake the kingdom. Scar lures Simba to a gorge with the premise of practicing his roar. The hyenas have orchestrated a wildebeest stampede, Mufasa saves Simba, but Scar refuses to help an injured Mufasa who falls to his death. Scar convinces Simba it is his fault and tells him to run away and never return; he orders the hyenas to kill Simba. The hyenas chase Simba over a ledge and are certain he’s dead.
Simba wanders the desert until Pumbaa and Timon find him near death and introduce him to the “Hakuna Matata” life. He enjoys his carefree world while the Pride Lands are decimated under Scar’s rule and hyena army. Sarabi, Simba’s mother, refuses to be Scar’s queen, and he leaves little food for the lions. Nala decides to search for help. When Nala finds the now-grown Simba, he’s not interested in returning–he feels responsible for his father’s death—and Nala challenges him to take his place. It takes Rafiki reminding Simba to “Remember who you are” to return and protect the Circle of Life. Simba fights Scar for the throne, truths are revealed, an epic battle ensues, and Simba takes his place as the Lion King.
While the story is authentic to the original, it is not an exact retelling. Extra footage has been added to give more depth to the storyline, new music has been introduced, and songs from the original have been reworked with the new artists’ voices and imagery to create a wonderful soundtrack. The visual effects are nothing short of stunning—it looks like the lands of Africa. The animals are amazingly realistic while their vocal exchanges seem normal. Comic relief provided through Pumbaa and Timon offsets the darker dramatic parts of the movie to give a nice balance for entertainment.
The Lion King delivers a fresh take with a mesmerizing setting and visual effects. The Circle of Life still beats in the heart of the audience as they cheer with the fun antics, cry with the sad moments, and are awed by the dangerous elements and august battle scenes. The Lion King movie is family-friendly, so grab some popcorn and enjoy a trip to the savanna of the Pride Lands.
Disney’s The Lion King roars into theaters on July 19, 2019.
The Lion King Official Trailer