This pointless, lifeless remake of an animated classic deserves to be compared to Gus Van Sant's ill-fated Psycho remake. Much like that terrible waste of celluloid, Jon Favreau has created a near shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake that is completely void of any reason to exist other than to take audience's money. We all deserve better.
The most significant change here is going from 2-D animation to photo-realistic motion capture that results in something like looks like Babe filmed by the crew from Planet Earth. The issue here is while the film often looks gorgeous, like a nature film of the highest order, the animals are not expressive. The flatness of 2-D animation allows for faces to be registered all at once. In the original The Lion King, we see young Simba's eyes grow big with fear, his eyebrows lower in shame and his mouth shrink in when he upsets his father Mufasa. In this new film, we see a lion cub. That is it. The 3-D and photo-realistic qualities here make it impossible to register the emotion on young Simba's face. This robs the film of any emotional impact. At the 20 minute mark when Simba sings "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" I couldn't wait for the film to be over. The animation prevents a connection to the characters.
Does anything work in this new version of The Lion King? Well, the songs are still great and the film's opening is impactful for the sheer scale of it. We get a new song by Beyonce and it works well within the film. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogan bring some fresh jokes and attitude to Timon and Pumba. That is about it.
The new cast doesn't match up to the original cast in many ways. Donald Glover and Beyonce give flat deliveries to Simba and Nala. As much as I like Chiwetel Ejiofer, he doesn't bring the same classy menace that Jeremy Irons did to Scar. James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa and it is a reminder of how great the original cast was.
With nothing new to add to the story and an animation style that critically hurts the film from having an emotional impact, the new The Lion King is a disaster. It should serve as a caution to Disney and they insistent churn of remakes but it will more likely do well at the box office and we will soon be getting a photo-realistic version of The Aristocats.