Charlie’s review published on Letterboxd:
(This review is gonna be a bit angry and bitter. Proceed at your own risk)
So... I may or may not have found a way to see this without paying. I'll never tell. But I will be honest when I say... This is far and away the worst of the Disney's new acquisition of their classic remakes. Yes. They have been getting worse and worse as it goes on. But they were always painfully average to plain vanilla bad. But this one... Takes the whole Pridelands of being awful. Even when detaching it from the original masterpiece (Which is nigh impossible to. Because it changes VERY little. And what it does it worsens) which I re-watched and reviewed earlier. This one is now at the level of being pure shit. Pure shit that will make millions because "NOSTALIGA NOSTALGIA! I REMEMBER THE LION KING!" or "Oh let's take little Billy and Suzy to see this. It'll keep em quiet and Hey I like The Lion King. WHY NOT?! MAYBE THE TECH BEHIND THIS IS IMPRESSIVE!" and it's all depressing. Before this, I would say that the Beauty and the Beast remake was the worst. That one made me angry. This one... It depressed me. I was still angry... But just more depressed. This isn't The Lion King, It's the cast of The Lion King as taxidermy animals and throw-rugs made like they're gonna hang off of Hercules's back in the inevitable live action remake of that! YOU KNOW THEY WILL!
The story and characters are exactly the same. But the screenplay feels much closer to a rough draft of the original 1994 Lion King movie. With certain unnecessary bits extended for so long. And they add very little. And what's added is needless and superflous or a downgrade of the original. The pacing of the original which moved very nicely is no longer there. And so many of the films most dramatic moments suffer due to it's lack of animaton and emotion. Oh also Rafiki gets cut. Hell. There's no "Dealing with the past" scene. You know? THE WHOLE SCENE WITH THE FILM'S BIGGEST MESSAGE! GONE! BYE BYE!
The voice cast, while impressive of paper, certainly don't feel well utilized. All those from the returning James Earl Jones to Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyonce, Seth Rogan ,Billie Eichner and others all feel as if they went with the first take they did. Rushed and half-assed. When tied to it's aforementioned pacing problems, it bogs the whole affair down even further.
Lets talk visuals: While the photo-realistic wildlife is pretty cool at first, it quickly loses it's appeal. It loses it's appeal because it sacrifices the liveliness that was so prevalent in the original. Gone are the emotions of the characters. And instead we get open mouths and slightly open or closed eyes... If you're lucky to get even that. Actual lions and animals show more emotion than this! One of the beauty's of animation is the expressive exaturated energy it can bring to scenes. Making them feel just as big and emotional. But in this, it's all gone. All of it set in a drab, boring, poorly lit version of the "Pridelands. " I've seen videos of Africa and the pridelands there. THEY'RE BEAUTIFUL! I wanna go there. The 1994 original captures it in a colorful sense of beauty and vibrancy. IT MADE ME WANNA GO THERE! But here, all of it is gone. It's drab, dry and boring. Just like the movie itself.
Oh and the songs? Can't even touch the original. No you know what? I wanna see if they actually re-constructed the songs or just replaced the vocals to sound new with little micro-arrangements. Because they are the exact same... But worse. The scope they gave off, the grandiose feel... Is replaced with these celebrities doing Karaoke. I was half expecting and elephant played by James Corden to come out and tell us we've been watching "Disney Karaoke Pridelands themed" spin-off of "Carpool Karaoke." "Circle of LIfe' feels downplayed. "Can't Wait To Be King" lacks it's momentum and energy and feels off beat. "Be Prepared" is downplayed INDEFINITELY to the point of sheer boredom. "Hakunnah Mattatah" is god awful. Seth Rogan can't hold a tune (Even in character, Ernie Sabella could still sing and belt it. If you want proof, compare Sabella and Rogan's "When I was a young warthog" and you'll see exactly what I mean) and Billie Eichner has nowhere near Nathan Lane's charisma to do Timon's part. "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" Is not only set during the day for the WHOLE ENTIRE THING (The original started at dusk and transitioned to nighttime) is probably the only good cover on it. But considering it's Donald Glover and Beyonce, that's not a surprise. Also, this movie, along with the other remakes, has an auto-tune problem. It's not stylistic. We can hear it. It doesn't enhance a thing. It hinders it. Every single time.
This whole affair... Is exhausting. a $250 Million waste of resources, a good cast all pissed away on an inferior product around the 25th Anniversary of the film it fails to remake. This is like celebrating the Lion King's birthday and doing that thing you see in internet videos where they take the birthday person and smash their face into the cake and belt them with food. IDK What that's called but it's a thing. Look it up. It's an insult to what I know Disney is capable of and slumming from doing. This is a company that opened my eyes and imagination as a child. That made me fall in love with film and animation. i love Disney... But it's become something I've grown to loath entirely. I know why it's like that. And it's frustrating and It's depressing as Hell. This film has depressed me beyond all belief. This remake takes away the excitement, scope and greatness. At the cost of entertainment, quality, and in many ways, honesty.
For the love of God, don't see this. Don't be apart of the problem. Because if this is successful, Disney's gonna keep slumming it like this. Something I know they are capable of not doing to this magnitude and lack of quality.
Honestly... If you want a good Lion King remake. Watch Lion King 1 1/2. At-least that one expands on the Pridelands world and given expansion on two of it's most popular characters. And even satirizes OG Lion King pretty well. With new characters and musical numbers, great animation, fantastic humor and the works. It's actually... Kinda the 21 Jumpstreet of Lion King. I'm serious. Give it a watch. If not for the product then for Timon and Pumba to Rifftrax the whole affair for laughs. It's a better product than this. Like... Indefinitely.
We need better movies than this. I know we can do better than this. Animation or otherwise, people are capable of doing better. Those involved with this are capable of doing better. I'm talking to the cast, Jon Faverau, and all other company involved. Because this is just the worst.
Gus Van Sant, I'm sorry for insulting your Psycho remake after all these years. It's bad. Still one of the worst remakes and movies out there. It's bad but no where near as bad as this.