The Lion King (2019) – The Photorealistic Illusion of Soulless Cinema


The original movie of “The Lion King” is one of the most iconic animated Disney ever. It’s one of my favorite nostalgic animated films besides “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Pinocchio”. Talking about the two films as well, Disney announced that they would make a live-action of the two films. And we seem to know what the fate for both of them would be like. Speaking of “The Lion King”, the “live-action” of Jon Favreau takes the same story as the original. Scar is the antagonist and Simba is the hero at the end of the day.

The original movie of “The Lion King” is magnificent. It’s a philosophy movie, for kids to say at least, about the circle of life. How life revolves around its wheels and never leaves a particular chain is one of the subtle texts about the movie. But, that’s just my point of view when watching the original movie again before watching this photorealistic of “The Lion King”. When we were a kid, we never knew what politics and philosophy were. More precisely, we know how easy we sympathize with the characters in the film. Simba is likable and Scar is evil. It’s easy to conclude who is bad and who is good. It’s so easy honestly.

This “live-action” of “The Lion King” has no new essence. Instead, it’s a shot-to-shot comparison of the original movie. The composition, the movement of the camera, to the real animal character, watching this film is like watching a documentary about the wild and animals. Even watching a documentary movie is much more fun than watching this film. Everything on the screen looks like the original. But, this is what I don’t understand about Disney. Trees, insects, the animal furry, all native. But, is there someone who doesn’t like the essence and magic in the original movie? Are we overly chlorinating technology and CGI? And in fact, it’s like that. Besides Hollywood, Disney is now on the dark side because of films like this.

The story of “The Lion King” isn’t much different from the original. But, if you’re curious, let’s talk about this again. The first opening scene opens with the phenomenal song of “Circle of Life”. We see all animals bow to the king. All were shown when the ceremony for the introduction of the crown prince appeared. Scar didn’t participate in the ceremony and he voiced more how he didn’t understand the philosophy of “Circle of Life”. But, wait. Is there something missing here? Why does this sequence not feel like the original movie showed? The animals in this film are so happy but is it strange to see these animals happy because there is a new king after that? Because in fact, they didn’t know that the lion would eat them later. Is that the point of the movie, to be realistic, just like our reality?

In the original movie, we don’t need to be afraid and worried about the characters in the film. The answer is simple: because they are cartoons and fiction. But, is there a reason why Disney wants to make a “live-action” of this movie? Is this about Scar’s ideology that wants to unite all animals, about equality between lions and hyenas? Or are there other reasons? Diversity in the original movie is Mufasa’s theory about the circle of life. It’s about how the food chain works in these wheels. Mufasa said that each animal has its respective duties. Everything will be there in due course and from this balance is maintained. No one dies of hunger and everything remains available.

We don’t need to see how everything is executed like in reality. However, the point of this film is actually to make how realistic the animals in this film. So… am I the wrong and only one? I don’t need to know how much their intention, their passion, their efforts, their budget in making this film. It’s possible, Jon Favreau doesn’t care about the fate of this film because Disney will still gain the money back as well.

I don’t care how realistic the visual is or how mind-blowing the scenery is. Because, at the end of the day, that’s not the point at all. No one cares about Seth Rogen, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Eric André, John Oliver, Beyoncé, or whoever is that. Even I’m also surprised why James Earl Jones must be “forced” to participate in this film. And come to think of it, they are forced to follow the procedures that exist like how they have to speak softly so that they still look realistic. Just stop it!

Considering that in the past Disney has transferred a lot of timeless classic movies to soulless of live-action, I’m not too surprised by them. Unless when the water is still flowing, why not? Seeing their plans about what films they will make live-action also makes me astonishing. The main key in this film is to attract a lot of people’s attention, especially adults, by using intertextuality or you prefer to call it nostalgia. Second, they will put in place subtle agendas by modifying certain minor characters. Third, it’s about money. And fourth, they run out of ideas. It’s just simple like that.

I heard how many animators hate this film. They say the most this movie is an “insult” to the animator. As far as I know, the point of an animation is to exaggerate human or other characters and turn them into attractive designs with colorful, fun, and sympathetic. To make an animation, you have to think out of the box without thinking about reality. Because if your character’s design is far from imagination, it’s no longer animated. Unless, you have to know what you draw, what you make, what you pour into your character.

This movie is hard to express because of the character. You never know what Simba thinks. Does he feel scared or feel sad? Even real animals like dogs and cats still have emotions. You know what expression they pour. But in this movie, there is none like a character without a soul. Aslan from “The Chronicles of Narnia” is still better than this film.

So, what have we learned after watching this film? I still want to talk about this again in “Aladdin” live-action. Anyway, do you still want to be trapped in a nostalgic trap, trapped in the net, and still unable to get out in that comfort zone? Even the song doesn’t have the same power as the original movie. I mean “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”? It’s afternoon, dude. Just why? I just want to talk crap about Disney again and this will continue to be there and in the future unless Disney knows when they stop. But, it’s impossible when a giant corporation knows what they have to do. Just, God. What is this?

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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