Devan’s review published on Letterboxd:
While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.
I was ambivalent going into this movie. So far there's yet to be a Disney live action remake that I've been explicitly excited for prior to its release. I've watched the trailers and sometimes looked forward to certain ones more than others, but never actually actively been excited for one's release.
Sometimes that's good. Sometimes I watch it and I'm blown away and love it far beyond what I ever expected (Cinderella (2015), I'm looking at you). Sometimes I leave neutral, or even disappointed (see here). Overall, I think it's just allowed me to have less biased viewings when these films do release. Regardless, I felt much the same way going into this one; but I can't pretend I wasn't hearing the initial responses that were floating around.
The buzz on this immediately following its release was mostly negative. People were displeased, unimpressed, and it made me wary of what I'd think once I saw it, but I remained open until I could watch it. Ultimately, I see where a lot of them were coming from. This rendition has a lot of moments that for me just didn't come across as moving as the original and what makes it so unfortunate is that they were, as I see it, what I felt stand as some of the most moving moments of the original movie (Mufasa's fall, Simba seeing him in the clouds, etc.) and that just didn’t feel like it carried over here in those areas.
Despite that however, I still enjoyed this for sure. I was crying on and off throughout, and that's just what Lion King the story has always done to me. It's never been a favorite of mine (I'm not huge on Hamlet starring big cats) even as a kid, but you can't deny the beauty and heart behind it and I feel that is what's most important and that it survived here so for that, I was pleased.
I think it's a well-done remake and pays good homage to the original while keeping the heart of it alive. I'd recommend anyone see it. It just still doesn't top Cinderella for me, sorry. ;)
Add-On: Be Prepared to be extremely disappointed by “Be Prepared” (if you can even call it that). I’m so glad I was warned regarding this number before I saw it or else I probably would’ve been more upset. I see no reason this could not be treated as a song with the same care every other musical number in the film was, so that was definitely another disappointing factor.