Disney’s Lion King remake, starring Donald Glover and Beyonce, has been described equally by pun-tastic critics as both a “roaring success” and “tame”.
The original 1994 animation won two Oscars for best music and score, while the stage version is also Broadway’s top grossing musical.
Director Jon Favreau, who also remade The Jungle Book, has used photorealistic animation in the film.
Glover and Beyonce are the voices of lions Simba and Nala respectively.
British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor provides the voice for the villainous Scar.
In a four-star review, The Telegraph said “the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside”.
“You soak up its astonishing photoreal visuals,” wrote Robbie Collin, “and marvel at the extraordinary progress that can occur within a single generation, yet still ache for the beauty and purity of the hand-crafted animation that was lost to make way for it.”
He added: “You might imagine that easy-breezy, Hakuna Matata-chanting middle act would only work when drawn by hand. Yet cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s expert command of “natural” spectacle and the sheer exuberance of Rogen and Eichner’s performances make it the film’s most purely delightful section.”
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The Lion King is the latest in a line of big new remakes, following Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.
The film features songs by Sir Tim Rice and Sir Elton John, 25 years after their original Oscar-winning efforts.
The Guardian, were less impressed with the film, writing that the “deepfake copycat ain’t so grrreat”.
Peter Bradshaw declared: “This is an anthro-leonine deepfake of impressive proportions, but the new Lion King gains in shock and awe while losing in character and wit.”
The Independent was impressed by the way Disney managed to keep “finding new ways to tell old stories”. Writer Clarisse Loughrey gave it four stars, praising the movie as a “technological marvel of unprecedented hyperrealism”.
“If anything,” she added, “The Lion King uses nostalgia as a springboard for experimentation, finding new ways to tell old stories, while reminding us what makes those stories feel truly timeless in the first place.”
Variety’s Peter Debruge was blown away by the CGI, saying the “animals look utterly convincing”, adding that the film would impress old fans and win new ones too.
He said: “By focusing his attention on upgrading the look of the earlier film while sticking largely to its directorial choices and script, Favreau reinforces the strength of the 1994 classic.”
Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter was less gushing with his praise, saying very few remakes had adhered as closely to their original versions as this one.
“Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem predigested,” he said. “There’s nary a surprise in the whole two hours.”
“If you were never a fan of The Lion King, then nothing here will win you over. On the other hand, for those too young ever to have seen it, this could be a life-changing experience.”
The Daily Mail’s Brian Viner disagreed and went as far to say this version of The Lion King “might just be the best” Disney remake yet, but with one or two reservations.
He said while the animals’ faces were less expressive than they were in the original, and Ejiofor “can’t match” his predecessor [original Scar actor] Jeremy Irons “for fruity, baritone menace”, the movie was a “terrific film in its own right”.
‘Internalised and sinister’
Kevin Maher in The Times gave it four stars, and agreed that “it’s better than the original”. He also preferred Ejiofor’s portrayal of Simba’s uncle and the jealous younger brother of Mufasa, calling Ejiofor’s performance “masterful”.
The film-makers, he said, had “swapped the theatrical camp of Jeremy Irons for something far more internalised and sinister”.
Website IndieWire concluded Disney’s remake was “a disastrous plunge into the uncanny valley.” David Ehrlich wrote: “Unfolding like the world’s longest and least convincing deepfake, the new Lion King fatally misunderstands what once made Disney special.”
The Lion King is out in UK cinemas on 19 July.
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