‘The Lion King’ reboot roars with a ferocious and darker look

LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – Sometimes things re-visited can be just as good as the first time. The first time I watched the original version of Disney’s The Lion King, I teared up. I laughed. The voiceovers done by the actors were simply mesmerizing. James Earl Jones putting the boom in Mufasa’s voice was worth the price of admission by itself.

It still is.

It’s safe to say that some things never change, and the storyline of The Lion King will pull at your heartstrings just as much as the 1994 animated film did. However, there is a bit of a caveat to this declaration. The first time The Lion King came around, the movie ran with an hour and 29-minute time span.

The new and re-invented The Lion King runs nearly two hours in length, which means that there is more to examine and take in, good, bad or indifferent. I would say that the biggest difference between the two films is that the live-action version gives audiences more of an up-close experience to the actual reality of the ferociousness of the wild kingdom.

Scar in Disney's "The Lion King."
THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of Florence Kasumba, Eric André and Keegan-Michael Key as the hyenas, and Chiwetal Ejiofor as Scar, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It is also a whole lot darker. That makes the film jarring to digest, especially with actor Chiwetel Ejiofor giving the character Scar an even more wicked persona than what the great Jeremy Irons did in his contribution to the role in the earlier film.

With Irons incorporating quick wit and improvisational funny one-liners, we see a Scar that fits the bill as that lovable and loathing relative fans could identify with, the uncle sitting somewhere in a corner stewing and moping about how life threw no favors in his direction.

That’s just weird Uncle Scar as one might say. That’s not the case with the new Scar. A warped revenge-seeking and murderous carnivore would best fit the description of how the reimaged Scar deploys his death by any means necessary program, something that might rattle a skittish moviegoer or two.

"The Lion King."
THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of John Oliver as Zazu, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019…© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although the new The Lion King’s storyline runs parallel with the movie’s plot from 25 years ago, Ejiofor’s Scar comes across as an even more murderous and treacherous has-been pissed that this chances for a run at the throne have vanquished with the birth of Simba, Mufasa’s son.

Talk about a sore loser. We know what happens next. In the grand scheme of things, what all this means to the film is that Ejiofor successfully did his job as the film’s antagonist. As chief villain opposite of Donald Glover’s Simba (older version), Scar appears to have a much stronger hold on the new The Lion King than the lingering presence of Mufasa.

And that is saying quite a bit considering Jones basically emboldened his status as a legendary thespian with his earlier take on Mufasa. It is Jones’ towering voice in the first movie that absolutely lends credence to the strength of Simba to allow the young lion to reclaim his rightful place as head of the pride in this animated adventure.

Beyonce as the voice of Nala in Disney's "The Lion King."
THE LION KING – (L-R) Nala and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Photo by Kwaku Alston. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jones is still able to carry the power he brought to the first film in the movie, but this time around it feels a little restrained. Nonetheless, there is nothing like hearing the deep-throated Jones scaring the hillbillies out of Scar as Mufasa when the pride leader ushers an indignant and unforgettable call to battle as the two brothers square up for a possible brawl.

What made the initial The Lion King entity so majestic and its presentation so spectacular were the array of colors that engulfed the entire screen. Director Jon Favreau’s update will have you glued to the screen as well but in a much different way.

There is still a sort of pageantry to behold when seeing the awesomeness of nature at its finest peak, which The Lion King displays gloriously-then and now. The spectacle beauty of The Lion King gives us a vivid reminder of what we have in our wildlife family and how we should appreciate our natural habitats with urgent enthusiasm instead of destroying it with illegal poaching, wars, human invasion, and pollution.

Donald Glover as Simba in Disney's "The Lion King."
THE LION KING – (L-R) Donald Glover and Simba. Photo by Kwaku Alston. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What’s also beautiful about The Lion King is the steady hand friendship between Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogan) that makes the film come alive with laughter and silly moments. Thanks to Nathan Lane (Timon) and Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa) laying the groundwork with their over the top voice performances in the earlier film, I never knew that a meerkat (Timon) and a warthog could be so funny.

Eichner and Rogan pick right up where Lane and Sabella left off. The duo doesn’t miss a beat in delivering cracking jokes and lightening up the film. Glover is a much better fit in replacing Matthew Broderick as Simba. Glovers lends more bass to his character’s voice, making Simba more lionly.  Of course, Beyoncé (Knowles-Carter) rocks anything that she does, and she nails it as the older Nala in the revised The Lion King.

As Nala, Beyonce is measured and captivating, giving the female lioness a nuanced and progressive appeal. But where The Lion King misses most is having the exhilarating voice that the late actor Robert Guillaume gave to the character Rafiki in The Lion King original. From his high-pitched shrieks to knocking some sense into Simba, Rafiki’s role is that of the point guard on a basketball team: he sets everyone else up to succeed.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019…© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Guillaume mastered that in the first movie. John Kani does a pretty decent job here, but it doesn’t quite feel the same as when Guillaume stamped his mark on the character.

Back then, The Lion King was something new, something never experienced before by audiences. The movie was such a transgenerational film that it made it all kinds of box office records on its way to grossing over $422 million here in the United States and an amazing more $545 million internationally, according to Box Office Mojo.

Combined, that would add up to more than $968 million in box office receipts. Talk about King of the Jungle. The Lion King, with its mammoth monetary take-in, was a huge payday and cultural explosion for Disney.

The phenomenon of The Lion King was made even more significant considering that the film only cost $45 million to make. Disney is hoping the reboot of The Lion King will have an even bigger impact on Millennials and the Generation Z crowd with its re-imaging of The Lion King through the digital platform that will make the live-action re-work just as special as the animated movie. Time will tell if it works out like that.

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