Although Hakuna Matata means no worries, The Lion King makes you a worried man, especially if you have grown up watching the film as a youngster. For some including this scribe, Lion King wasn’t just an animated feature film with songs, and an inspiring story, it was a way of life. It showed the audience that after every darkness, there is light; after every hiccup, there is a triumph and after every loss, there is a victory. Sadly, Jon Favreau’s Lion King doesn’t fall in the light, triumph and victory category as it disappoints more than expected. Let’s analyse the new Lion King and compare it with the original that helped us grow up, the Hakuna Matata way!
1. Live-action Simba doesn’t appeal to the audience
The original Lion King became a classic because it made the audience connect with Simba, the cub who was too rebellious for his own good. When he was in a mischievous mood, so were the audience; when he was sad, the audience was sad too and when he came back to reclaim his throne, the crowd roared as he fought his evil uncle. Since the newer version had more or less the same story, it appealed to only the newer fans who either had no idea that there was an original animated version or didn’t find it that much interesting. For genuine die-hard fans, there is only one Lion King and it is 25 years old!
2. Most of the voice-over actor seemed out of place
Back in 1994, Matthew Broderick who voiced Simba was one of the rising stars of Hollywood; renowned artists Madge Sinclair and James Earl Jones played his parents while popular British actor Jeremy Irons became Scar, the main antagonist. Moira Kelly was cast as Nala, Nathan Lane as Timon, and Ernie Sabella as Pumbaa, with Rowan Atkinson voicing Zazu. Each one of them was amongst the A-listers of Hollywood or US TV and that’s what made them adapt the characters rather than just provide their voices. Sadly, this time around the only name that strikes familiar is that of Beyoncé who plays Nala; Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor might be good actors but voiceovers don’t seem to be their cup of tea. There is Seth Rogen as Pumbaa but more on that later!
3. There can be only one Mufasa who towers above all!
James Earl Jones maybe 88 years old but nobody could have done a Mufasa better than him, back then and now both. He towers above all the characters in this version and it shows as well; which is not a good sign for Hollywood. In 25 years they couldn’t find anyone who could play Mufasa and it also seems that in the last couple of years, they chose actors on their reputation than on their ability to portray a character with their voice. James Earl Jones’ presence was the saving grace of the film and proved that the original casting was much better in every way.
4. Timon and Pumbaa were a disappointment
When Timon and Pumbaa made their entry in The Lion King in 1994, they came as saviours of Simba who had run away from his home, blaming himself for his father’s death. They took him in as one of their own, treated him as their kid and saw him grow big without realising that one day he might have to go back. In this version, the only resemblance Timon and Pumbaa had was visual with the original characters; Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner were misfits as neither did they connect with the audience nor did they fit the characters of Pumbaa and Timon. The newer audience loved them because they were something they usually don’t see in films but the original animated flick’s audience took some time to digest that whatever the creatures were, they were supposed to be something they loved back in the day, and even today!
5. Jeremy Irons’ Scar gave children nightmares; this one didn’t
The mere sight of Scar in the original flick sent goosebumps, be it young or old. Parents used to tell their children that if they didn’t do as asked, Scar might come into their lives, such was his reputation. Sadly, Scar in this film seems more like a puppet than an antagonist as there was hardly any evil expression on his face.
He may have had bad intentions in whatever he did but he wasn’t menacing to look at, didn’t send chills through your body and had a regular voice instead of a threatening one.
6. Minor characters who played an important role in the original were missing
Zazu and Rafiki had more to do in the animated version than in this one; yes it was always going to be difficult to give both these minor characters a chance to be major but trust me, they were very important to the plot. Until the release of the latest flick, they were major characters in my book and relegating them to sightseers wasn’t acceptable to any Lion King fan at all!
7. Disappointing Lion King Soundtrack is a major worry
The last time someone had used Disappointing and Lion King Soundtrack in the same sentence before this flick was Never because it was the most awesome thing to happen in the 1990s. Sadly, this flick doesn’t have anything original to offer; it even destroys some of the songs that the audience still remembers such as I Just Can’t Wait To Be King which was most disappointing. Even Hakuna Matata and Circle Of Life were only acceptable because they resembled the original more, otherwise, the audience would have written them off as well.
8. Where did the expressions go?
Every character had an expression in the original flick – Scar was menacing, Mufasa was authoritative and calm, Simba rebellious, Nala carefree, Sarabi caring, Rafiki animated, Zazu comic, Timon and Pumbaa were Timon and Pumbaa. However, in this version, there were no expressions at all and while many would blame the VFX, one must remind them that the same director did wonders with animals in The Jungle Book, after which the idea of Lion King was coined. Having expressionless characters was a big no-no for those who had seen Lion King original as well as the 3D version that came out in 2011!
9. It couldn’t become better than the original story
Had the story of The Lion King been changed, it would have given it a ‘wow factor’ and that would have made people go and watch it in cinema more than once. What if Mufasa got injured and was captured than dying in front of Simba; what if Simba found Nala out instead of the other way around; what if Timon and Pumbaa knew Mufasa and trained Simba to become a ferocious lion instead of a harmless one. The story could have been updated in many ways, but the producers chose to stay in the safe zone, coming up with a version that was a one-time watch, that too for those who couldn’t care less whether there was a change in the story, or not.
10. No message, big problem!
The live-action version of Lion King doesn’t give any message to the youngsters, which is a disappointment as the last one was full of messages. It sent the message of friendship, love, and hope through Simba who disobeyed his father and ran away instead of facing the consequences. Every time you ended the film, you learned something new which was missing in the newer version. It seems that Disney made the film just because they could; had they bettered the original, everyone would have been happy. But sadly, that wasn’t the case as most of the people I know came out disappointed.
11. Jon Favreau fails to maintain the high standards
Most of the people who saw Jungle Book’s live-action version a few years back were expecting the same director cast his magic in The Lion King. However, Jon Favreau failed to recreate the same effect mostly because he couldn’t deviate from the story, had an all-animal cast and was working with talented actors, not the best in the business. Unlike Jungle Book where he had the services of the best in the business, here he had talented actors trying to make a name for themselves as voice over artists. Bad move, one that killed the live-action version!