Live-action Lion King a ‘disaster’

THE first reviews are in for the highly-anticipated live-action remake of The Lion King - and they have not been kind.

Much has been made of the decision to replace the 1994 original film's bright, vibrant animation with photorealistic CGI, making the film look more like a nature documentary than a Disney musical. For some, it's a marvel - but many fans have savaged preview clips of the film, like this strangely lifeless snippet of the classic Hakuna Matata:

While the film doesn't open here in Australia until next week, it has already screened for critics in the US. Here's a selection of what they've had to say:


Reviewer A.O. Scott notes "there are a great many impressive moments in this film", all to do with the technical wizardry of the CGI animation. But he says the movie "plays more like an especially glitzy presentation reel at a trade convention … There is a lot of professionalism but not much heart.

"The closer the movie gets to nature in its look, the more blatant, intrusive and purposeless its artifice seems."

‘A lot of professionalism but not much heart.’ Picture: Disney via AP
‘A lot of professionalism but not much heart.’ Picture: Disney via AP


While technically speaking the film is "a marvel", Vulture's Bilge Ebiri writes "the characters in some cases have been rendered with such realism that they have lost all human expression on their faces".

The characters are still talking and singing as before, "only now their faces are inexpressive; it's a weird disconnect".

Despite all the resources in the world, the film has "no vision to bind it all together".

‘Their faces are inexpressive.’ Picture: Disney via AP
‘Their faces are inexpressive.’ Picture: Disney via AP


Calling it a "disastrous plunge into the Uncanny Valley", IndieWire's David Ehrlich says the film "fatally misunderstands what once made Disney special".

"Unfolding like the world's longest and least convincing deepfake, Jon Favreau's (almost) photorealistic remake of The Lion King is meant to represent the next step in Disney's circle of life. Instead, this soulless chimera of a film comes off as little more than a glorified tech demo from a greedy conglomerate - a well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail."


"Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem predigested. There's nary a surprise in the whole two hours," is their verdict.


Reviewer Scott Mendelson warns viewers to "be prepared for a crushing disappointment": "At almost every turn, this redo undercuts its own melodrama by downplaying its own emotions. The key direction seems to be "like the 1994 version, but less".


"Basically, this new Lion King sticks very closely to the original version, and in that sense it's of course watchable and enjoyable," wrote Peter Bradshaw in his three-star review.

"But I missed the simplicity and vividness of the original hand-drawn images. The circle of commercial life has given birth to this all-but-indistinguishable digiclone descendant."

The photorealism ‘never makes a case for itself’. Picture: AP
The photorealism ‘never makes a case for itself’. Picture: AP


In a savage review titled "The new Lion King doesn't even try", writer Matt Patches says the remake's photorealism "never makes a case for itself".

"From the very first shot, the movie is caught in a limbo between raw nature footage and the imaginative power of cartooning."

The 1994 original film.
The 1994 original film.

You can judge for yourself when The Lion King hits Australian cinemas next Wednesday, July 17.