The Lion King

Unfolding like the world’s longest and least convincing deepfake, Jon Favreau’s (almost) photorealistic remake of “The Lion King” is meant to represent the next step in Disney’s circle of life, but this soulless chimera of a film comes off as little more than a glorified tech demo from a greedy conglomerate — a well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail. In other words, it’s more of the same from a company that’s been all too happy to scavenge new spectacles from the carcasses of its most beloved classics.

At the same time, it’s also so much less. With the possible exception of 2015’s “Cinderella,” which was touched with just enough magic to feel like a new wrinkle on an old fairy tale, all of Disney’s live-action rehashes have been faint echoes of their animated predecessors. But “The Lion King” is different — “The Lion King” is worse. Much worse. This isn’t an echo, it’s a stain. A zombified digital clone of the studio’s first original cartoon feature. A gobsmackingly misguided idea executed without even an iota of imagination. It’s the Disney equivalent of Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho.”

Unlike the rest of the nü-Disney crop, “The Lion King” isn’t live-action (and not just because it has no life, and no action). Favreau, who previously inched towards this same technological asymptote with his playful update of “The Jungle Book” in 2016, has made a fully animated film that’s desperate to disguise itself as an episode of “Planet Earth.” The illusion is about as convincing as the sight of Ace Ventura piloting a mechanical rhino.