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The Lion King (2019) – An Excellent Remake to Respect All Creatures!

Photorealistically CGI animated remake of (Walt) Disney’s 1994 movie of the same name is rumbling all over the theaters since 19th of July 2019 in Istanbul Turkey, and US.

Directed by Jon Favreau, this splendid narrative (2019) keeps the story of the former (1994) originally which is all about the balance, understanding and respecting all creatures in nature.

We will come back to the story shortly. However before that, let’s get mesmerized by this technologically groundbreaking cinematography first!

It is not easy to describe The Lion King 2019 under an established category visually since it looks like the first movie of its kind. However, if there is one thing to be noted, Disney created a marvel with this remake!

It is a combination of live action and the classical animation with the help of CGI, VR and AI. At that point, Favreau recalls “Even though we use animation techniques, we wanted it to appear live-action. And that required a lot of technical and technological innovation.”

Of all the appearingly live-action 1.600 scenes, there is one that is live indeed. It is “Circle of Life”, the opening movement. Those who may remember 1994 version will be stunned by the touchable fur, reflections of the glorious rays of the sun, wind blowing on the grass, gigantic  elephant steps, tower-wise giraffe, and sneezing baby Simba in 2019.

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and all the VR team under the supervision of Robert Legato, Elliot Newman and Adam Valdez create something beyond the visual effects. It is a harmonized blend of reality topped with an emotive language of the magical animation (Andrew R Jones), and VR/AR technique. Boldly to define, that sounds like something as if shooting a film using virtual reality.

Usage of AI make the characters mimic real animal faces. Hence, this is how the characters are so real to the bone – just like watching an imaginary documentary- e.g., they do not imitate human face mime as which should not be, and this is where we welcome a photorealistic era with this very movie!

All details regarding the light and cinematography are thought meticulously in the same way. It is dark or cold blue at scenes where the villainous Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and hyenas are dominant, and lively daylight tones outshine where Mufasa and graciousness prevail. This can be another technical aspect that supports the “balance” as the main theme in the script.

When we come back to the plot which advances since Shakespeare or even before and throughout the history, it is about the balance (of the good and evil in the big picture), understanding and respect…

Script focuses on the three following types of characters:

  1. Demons (Scar) are sometimes in the “family” – and which hurts more. They try to provoke others by developing falsified needs or lies. And when there is nobody to challenge them, they start to eat (destroy) whatever they want. They strengthen by involving other coward villains (hyenas) who are incompatible by themselves. When the fear is spread once, they try to have everyone by their sides to dictate every single living and non-living thing, and for the destruction of virtue for their selfish, disrespectful and always empty-stomached kingdom.
  2. In nature, there are also those who believe in hakuna matata (sometimes bad things happen, there is nothing you can do, or problem-free philosophy believers such as Pumbaa [Seth Rogen], Timon [Billy Eichner]). To them, there is no circle of life, it is only the meaningless line of indifference.. Therefore, nothing to worry about, and nothing to think on – no past and no future and no self. At the end of the day, hakuna matata audience also serve the villains by not raising their voices, by not remembering who they are, what their power is, or by not questioning anything at all…
  3. Finally, there is the light and the Lion Kings (Musafa [James Earl Jones], Simba [Donald Glover], Nala [Beyonce], Rafiki [John Kani]) where everything the light touches is their place, and this place (kingdom) belongs to noone but everyone actually. It is the “circle of life”. Their role is to protect, to understand and to respect all the creatures. They are brave when they have to do or when they have no other choice (or when the circle of life is threatened). They know who they are, and they lead the way to their followers to remember who they are for the balance to be preserved…

James Earl Jones, reprised from 1994, is fascinating as Musafa’s voice again. Not sure if the impression is the same for Donald Glover and Beyonce as well. John Oliver who voices Zazu (the hornbill as the Lion King’s advisor), though a bit theatrical also fits.

Main score is composed by Hans Zimmer as in the former. And newly added soundtracks are also available in the 2019 remake (Beyonce – Spirit, Elton John & Tim Rice – Never Too Late). But, my favorite of all times is still The Tokens’ unforgettable song The Lion Sleeps Tonight!

Financially, The Lion King (2019) has grossed $448.9 million in US and Canada, and a worldwide total of $1.218 billion as of 7 August 2019. It seems like that it is holding the biggest opening for an animated film.

Being 30 minutes longer than the original version (118 minutes in total), the remake uses a fantastic innovative technology exhibiting a fictitious conveyance for how nature looks! So if not already, please urge yourselves to go to the nearest theatre, preferably an IMAX 3D to celebrate the miracle of the 7th art with The Lion King (2019)!..