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Film Review: ‘The Lion King’

Jon Favreau’s 'live-action' remake of the 1994 cartoon classic leans on the strength of the original story while pushing the animation to photo-realistic new extremes.

By Peter Debruge

Peter Debruge

Chief Film Critic

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The Lion King

From the ecstatic Zulu chant that opens the film — “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba!” — to the thundering drumbeat that ends it, director Jon Favreau ’s exhilarating live-action take on “ The Lion King ” hews closer to the Walt Disney animated masterpiece than any of the studio’s recent remakes. Technically, “live action” is the wrong way to describe the movie — it’s more a cover version, really — which is every bit as animated as the 1994 original, and leagues beyond Favreau’s 2016 “The Jungle Book” update in terms of how breathtakingly photo-realistic the visual-effects work looks.

At times, the movie mimics the earlier Disney toon practically shot for shot — as in the presentation of baby Simba on Pride Rock and the spectacular wildebeest stampede that endangers him as a cub — so much so that composer Hans Zimmer didn’t need to change a note for these sequences. That raises the inevitable question, “Why bother?” and though any number of artistic arguments could be made (no one balks when a fresh version of “Hamlet” hits the stage, and what is “The Lion King” but a leonine riff on Shakespeare’s regicidal classic?), the answer here can be spelled in dollars. Considering the 1994 film was the top-grossing movie of its time, and factoring in the success of “The Jungle Book” (the project whose nearly billion-dollar box office sparked this entire phenomenon), “The Lion King” could be Disney’s most successful do-over yet.

If the lesson of the original “Lion King” was one of birth and death and mutual respect — a concept represented by the movie’s intuitive “Circle of Life” motif — then its successor’s driving philosophy could be described as the “Circle of Commerce”: First there was “Hamlet” (which scholars consider to be a retelling of an earlier Scandinavian legend), then “The Lion King,” then a Broadway musical, and now this, the latest trend in Disney’s efforts to mine new gold from its animated catalog.

Audiences are either on board with the Disney remake machine or they’re not, and apart from Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” — an artistic and financial disappointment that strayed too far from the source — the box office for the remakes has been strong enough that “The Lion King” was inevitable. And let’s be honest: It’s not like Disney would have otherwise used that money to solve world hunger. If the studio was going to update “The Lion King,” it might as well do it right.

I have a theory that all 20th-century American kids go crazy for at least one Disney animated movie in their lives. They demand the toys; they own the home video; they watch it so often, they have it memorized. Think back to your own childhood. Maybe you got hooked on “The Little Mermaid,” or if you’re older, fell for “Lady and the Tramp” or “Fantasia.” That magic connection seems to occur when kids are 4 or 5 years old, although in my case, it happened right before my senior year in high school — embarrassingly late to develop a cartoon fixation. The movie was “The Lion King,” and I loved it so much, I bought the lunchbox, I bought the bedsheets. I didn’t care that it wasn’t cool, because I’d never seen anything like it.

Looking back, it’s clear that “The Lion King” was the pinnacle of what we now refer to as the Disney Renaissance. Pixar’s “Toy Story” came out the following year and began the transition to computer animation, but at the time, “The Lion King” was a revelation: It brought cinematic techniques to a medium in which something as basic as a 3D camera move (anything more than a zoom or a horizontal pan) posed enormous challenges for animators. Just compare the opening sequence — as Zazu swoops over herds of animals who’ve gathered to witness the presentation of Simba — to the magic carpet ride in “Aladdin,” which cheated “over, sideways and under” with tight framing and standard left-to-right movement.

“Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Tarzan” would follow, but of all these movies, “The Lion King” holds up most beautifully all these years later. That means Favreau’s most important responsibility in overseeing the remake was simply not to mess it up. Which he doesn’t. Then again, nor does he bring the kind of visionary take to the material that Julie Taymor added when staging the Broadway version. That makes Favreau’s “The Lion King” an undeniably impressive but incredibly safe entry to the catalog — one whose greatest accomplishment may not be technical (which is not to diminish the work required to make talking animals look believable) but in perfecting the performances.

Even a quarter century ago, audiences were savvy to the kind of representation problems that Hollywood creators are finally addressing today, and “The Lion King” rightly took flak for casting white actors in Disney’s first Africa-set animated movie (“Home Improvement” star Jonathan Taylor Thomas played young Simba, while Matthew Broderick performed the adult version). Favreau doesn’t make the same mistake, casting actors of African descent as the lion and hyena characters and bringing back just one voice from the original, the incomparable James Earl Jones, to rerecord nearly all the same dialogue as Simba’s father, the mighty Mufasa.

It can be distracting to be constantly comparing the line readings between the two versions. As Zazu, John Oliver is essentially doing his best Rowan Atkinson, repeating mostly the same jokes, whereas Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner rehearsed together to play warthog Pumbaa and meerkat Timon, the “no worries” buddies who convince Simba to adopt an all-bug diet during his time in exile. Rogen and Eichner’s riffing sessions result in a fair amount of fresh material, and an overall even-more-likable version of these two beloved characters — although the most hilarious change to Timon’s personality comes from observing how real meerkats sit, sprawling awkwardly back on their haunches. To punch up their personalities even further, Favreau and DP Caleb Deschanel work out a GoPro-style way of “shooting” them at clownishly close range.

Midway through Timon and Pumbaa’s jungle anthem, “Hakuna Matata,” Simba’s voice changes — as actor-singer-comedian Donald Glover takes over for JD McCrary — and it’s then that something remarkable happens: The character assumes a dimension that was missing from Broderick’s performance, and the detail that never quite rang true in the original (that Simba thought he was responsible for Mufasa’s death) becomes part of a bigger and more plausible self-confidence problem. As Simba’s bride-to-be, pop goddess Beyoncé Knowles-Carter lends still more depth, conveying aspects of bravery and independence in Nala’s personality that weren’t there before. And, of course, Glover and Beyoncé are both singers, which gives the “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” montage new life as an old friendship turns romantic, reinforced by the two lions’ body language. Beyoncé also contributes a largely unnecessary but exhilarating single, “Spirit,” over the couple’s return to the Pride Lands, which Mufasa’s scheming brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has turned into a barren desert.

Of all the cast, Ejiofor has the toughest job, reinventing the film’s second-most-iconic performance, Jeremy Irons’ conniving purr. His is the character who changes the most. Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (who boasts some of the hackiest high-profile credits in the biz) hardly deserves the sole credit he gets, considering the debt he owes to “The Lion King” writers Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, although he does add a few key lines here and there to explain — and update — Scar’s motivations. Elsewhere, his song, “Be Prepared,” is whittled down to a verse or two of spoken-word evil, after which Ejiofor repeats the title like some kind of malicious mantra.

Overall, the songs pose a unique challenge to Favreau’s approach, since he’s striving for realism — or at least the illusion that we’re watching flesh-and-blood animals — whereas the original belongs to that period of Disney animation when the stories often halted to make room for Broadway-style show tunes. Rather than replicating the Busby Berkeley-style choreography of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” the director does a fantastic job of reimagining this sequence, tipping his hat to certain memorable shots without anthropomorphizing the animals too much.

Rendering technology has advanced so much in the short time since “The Jungle Book” — to say nothing of the vastly increased amount of labor assembled to pull it off — that “The Lion King” no longer requires audiences to pretend that the CGI looks more believable that it does. With the exception of the strangely out-of-sync mouth movements seen when these digital creatures talk, effects house MPC makes the animals look utterly convincing, blending characteristics of their various species (the way a cat’s ears hinge backward when it’s hesitant or scared) with recognizable human expressions (where a subtle eye flicker serves to reinforce those same feelings).

By focusing his attention on upgrading the look of the earlier film while sticking largely to its directorial choices and script, Favreau reinforces the strength of the 1994 classic. If you were never a fan of “The Lion King,” then nothing here will win you over. On the other hand, for those too young ever to have seen it, this could be a life-changing experience, one that strives to create a kind of understanding between audiences and the animal kingdom that Disney once made a regular part of its mission, back in the era of films such as “The Legend of Lobo” and “The Incredible Journey.” It’s a shame to sacrifice the hand-drawn artistry — whose human touch will surely hold up better in the long haul — but those are the terms with this latest wave of remakes, and “The Lion King” at least honors what came before, using current animation technology to convince us that we’re watching the real thing.

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Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Hollywood, July 10, 2019. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 118 MIN.

  • Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Disney presentation of a Fairview Pictures production. Producers: Jon Favreau, Jeffrey Silver, Karen Gilchrist. Executive producers: Tom Peitzman, Julie Taymor, Thomas Schumacher. Co-producer: John Bartnicki.
  • Crew: Director: Jon Favreau. Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson, based on “The Lion King” by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton. Camera (color, 3D): Caleb Deschanel. Editors: Mark Livolsi, Adam Gerstel. Music: Hans Zimmer. Original songs: Tim Rice, Elton John.
  • With: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor , John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Penny Johnson Jerald, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris.

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‘The Lion King’ Review: The Art of Herding Digital Cats

Beyoncé, Donald Glover and Seth Rogen are some of the famous voices in a super-realistic version of the Disney and Broadway favorite.

the lion king movie review

By A.O. Scott

Watching the newest version of “The Lion King” — a big-screen celebrity-voiced musical trying its best to look like a television nature documentary — I recalled a line from John Gregory Dunne’s 1969 book “The Studio” that may be my all-time favorite sentence in the annals of movie writing. “Six months were devoted to teaching Chee Chee the Chimpanzee how to cook bacon and eggs,” Dunne wrote, referring to a character in “Doctor Dolittle,” one of many real animals cast in that big-budget, family-friendly musical spectacle.

Dunne was pounding the pavement on the 20th Century Fox lot at a time of political tension and social fracture, when the Hollywood studios seemed to be facing an existential crisis. Pretty much like now, in other words, except that the money and ingenuity those studios used to spend on things like teaching chimps to make breakfast now go toward turning lines of code into fur and sinew. This is undoubtedly an ethical improvement, much as Chee Chee may have enjoyed hanging out with Rex Harrison. The hope behind this “Lion King,” opening July 19, is that advancing digital technology will also enhance the luster of the moviegoing experience.

It does and it doesn’t. There are a great many impressive moments in this film, and a few that might elicit a gasp of amazement or an appreciative burst of laughter from even a jaded viewer. For example: When Pumbaa, the flatulent warthog voiced by Seth Rogen, absent-mindedly scratches his left ear with his hind leg, I confess that I nearly wept. Not because the scene was especially touching or sad, but because of the sheer extravagant craft that had clearly gone into rendering those two seconds of reflexive animal behavior. I was nearly as moved by the efforts of a dung beetle to propel a ball of scat across a patch of desert. The digital artisans responsible for these images didn’t necessarily have to do it all with such fanatical care, and the fact that they did is surely worthy of admiration.

So if a movie could be judged solely on technique, “The Lion King” might qualify as a great one. And it kind of wants to be judged that way — for its technical skin rather than its dramatic soul. The opening sequence (it doesn’t seem right to call it a “shot”) fools the eye in subtle and brazen ways. You might think there are real creatures mixed into the computer-generated menagerie (there aren’t), but at the same time the flights of animal choreography lie beyond the skill of any trainer. Then the music starts, and it’s “The Circle of Life” and baby Simba is cute enough to make all the trolls on Twitter go awwwww.

The mixture of coziness and, well, awe in that opening number is as on-brand as anything Disney has done since — I guess since a few weeks ago, when it released “Toy Story 4.” Once the voices start up, we are in a comfortable and familiar pop-cultural space, even if the talking beasts don’t look much like cartoons. (A possible exception might be Zazu, the hornbill who sounds like John Oliver. Or maybe it’s just that John Oliver looks like a hornbill.) The antelopes lope. The elephants lumber. The graceful lions bask in their languorous power, lolling and growling and setting up the parameters of the story.

Not many surprises there. Simba’s father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones), rules the savanna with a gentle paw and a loyal queen, Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). Mufasa’s brother, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), is the snake in this garden, scheming first to kill Simba, the rightful heir to the throne, and then to get rid of Mufasa. Scar has the help of Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) and her army of hyenas, whose closed-up, predatory faces are genuinely scary, especially when they appear for the first time.

Small children may have some trouble at that point , and also with Scar’s ruthless political machinations, which are pretty murdery for Disney. But it’s likely that much of the audience, young and old, will have some familiarity with the narrative, whether from the 1994 animated feature or from the long-running, much-loved Broadway show . “The Lion King” currently under review isn’t meant to replace or outdo either of those, but rather to multiply revenue streams and use a beloved property to show off some new tricks. A lot of people will go, expecting to like what they see, and for the most part they won’t be disappointed.

I said earlier that the movie, which was directed by Jon Favreau and written by Jeff Nathanson, looks like a nature documentary. But it plays more like an especially glitzy presentation reel at a trade convention, with popular songs and high-end talent pushing an exciting new product that nobody is sure quite how to use. Simba and his best friend, Nala, voiced as cubs by JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph, grow up into Donald Glover and Beyoncé, and when they get going on “Can You Feel the Love Tonight …”

It’s O.K. When Pumbaa and his pal Timon the meerkat show up — I’m not going to stir up trouble by saying which one might be the other’s sidekick — we get a brisk vaudevillian double act from Rogen and Billy Eichner. That’s O.K. too. But of all the second-golden-age Disney animated features, the original “Lion King” is the most Shakespearean, as well as being the most ideologically coherent Hollywood defense of monarchy until “Black Panther.” The grandeur and intimacy, the earthy humor and heavenly songs have given it gravity and staying power.

Those are somehow missing here. The songs don’t have the pop or the splendor. The terror and wonder of the intra-pride battles are muted. There is a lot of professionalism but not much heart. It may be that the realism of the animals makes it hard to connect with them as characters, undermining the inspired anthropomorphism that has been the most enduring source of Disney magic.

Real lions don’t sing — not even like Beyoncé — and don’t actually govern other creatures. The closer the movie gets to nature in its look, the more blatant, intrusive and purposeless its artifice seems. It might have worked better without songs or dialogue: surely the Disney wizards could have figured out how to spin an epic tale of royal succession and self-discovery through purely visual means. Or else someone could have spent a few months teaching the digital Pumbaa to whip up a nice tofu scramble.

The Lion King

Rated PG. Not too red in tooth and claw. Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

A.O. Scott is the co-chief film critic. He joined The Times in 2000 and has written for the Book Review and The New York Times Magazine. He is also the author of “Better Living Through Criticism.” More about A.O. Scott

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Disney’s The Lion King Feels Like an Unusually Good Nature Documentary. Is That What We Wanted?

Portrait of Bilge Ebiri

This review was originally published earlier this month. We are republishing the piece as the film hits theaters this weekend.

Technically speaking, it’s a marvel. Jon Favreau’s “live action” remake of Disney’s The Lion King possesses all the immersive detail and tactile immediacy of an unusually good nature documentary. It transports us. We can practically feel the fur on these animals, and we want to duck away from their thundering heels as the camera breathlessly rushes us through trembling grass and craggy ravines. It’s hard to imagine that this has all been created in a studio, and that almost none of it is real. It’d be a great case of “How did they do that?” except that they did it so well that you forget that they did anything at all. “Oh, the lion is singing? Well, how ’bout that? I didn’t know a lion could sing. But there it is — a real lion, singing.”

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that, having entered the photorealistic realm, The Lion King ’s mood too has changed. Suddenly, that iconic opening scene, with all the animals gathering to bow before the newborn lion cub Simba, held up like some sort of scepter of absolute power, doesn’t feel triumphant or moving, as it did in its fantastical, animated setting. It feels queasily authoritarian. But of course, the filmmakers recognize that. So now, when the old king Mufasa (voiced again by James Earl Jones) shows the young Simba the extent of his domain (“ Everything the light touches is our kingdom … ”), we now appropriately get some additional dialogue about how it’s not really his: “It belongs to no one, but it will be yours to protect.”

But by and large, this new Lion King hews pretty closely to the animated Lion King , at times even replicating the same shots and editing patterns as the original. And the effect can feel like a stunt — like someone decided to do a scene-by-scene re-creation using real-life animal footage. It doesn’t help that the characters in some cases have been rendered with such realism that they have lost all human expression on their faces. Maybe that’s the idea — to not anthropomorphize them too much and to stay grounded in zoological authenticity. But they’re still talking , and singing , only now their faces are inexpressive; it’s a weird disconnect.

That creates an unfortunate hierarchy among the actors, allowing some to shine while leaving others to drift. As Scar, the conniving, embittered uncle who kills Mufasa and claims the throne for himself, Chiwetel Ejiofor brings the kind of howling, snarling energy you’d expect from a true Shakespearean; he connects to the story’s raging passions. (Of course, this was also true of the original, which had the sensuous, slithery stylings of Jeremy Irons.) Whenever he’s “onscreen,” the film has genuine power.

As the grown-up Simba, Donald Glover stays too above the fray. He’s ordinarily a fine actor, but here we sense a distance between his character and his voice. It reminded me of how Disney’s actual nature docs, the Disneynature series, will often have the narrator half-perform dialogue for the creatures onscreen, just to keep things interesting. As Nala, Beyoncé suffers a similar fate. The talking lion might look realistic, but when we hear her dialogue, all we see is Beyoncé in a recording booth, reading lines. The comic-relief characters split the difference: Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner are delightful as the farting warthog Pumbaa and his wiseass meerkat pal Timon; John Oliver is plunge-a-skewer-in-your-ears irritating as Mufasa’s avian steward Zazu.

Favreau’s previous talking-animal-heavy Disney live-action remake, The Jungle Book , was a masterpiece — a stylized, communitarian fever dream that transformed the thickets and caves of its wild landscape into a grand stage for its operatic fable of betrayal and belonging. Whenever The Lion King sticks with that approach, it works beautifully. Pride Rock, the outcropping on which much of the movie’s drama turns (and where the animal kingdom’s fate is decided) looms heavily in the characters’ minds. When Simba takes his final, lonely walk to accept his royal destiny — his supposed moment of triumph — we can sense his hesitation. Similarly, Scar’s nocturnal performance of “Be Prepared” (which, in the original, was a dementedly surreal vision of marching hyenas and roaring hellfire) makes for a mocking echo of that “Circle of Life” opening scene: Instead of making the entire savannah bow down before his heir in the morning light, Scar assembles his ghostly gathering of scavengers, as he leaps sneering and singing from rock to rock, raging, contemptuous, and prideful.

While numbers like “Be Prepared” and Pumbaa and Timon’s gaseous rendition of “Hakuna Matata” retain their charm, the songs too are uneven in this new Lion King . Glover and Beyoncé’s duet of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is, as a piece of audio, utterly glorious, and yet it has little impact onscreen (where, for some reason, it’s performed in total daylight ), because neither Simba nor Nala has come through as an engaging character. The couple of new pieces that have been added also seem out of place, but that might be because the old songs are so familiar at this point. It all speaks to the uneven impact of this glossy, no-expense-spared version of The Lion King : It’s a stirring reminder of what can be achieved with all the talent (and money) in the world, as well as a cautionary tale of what can happen when there’s no vision to bind it all together.

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The Lion King (2019) Review

The Lion King 2019

19 Jul 2019

The Lion King (2019)

Another month, another Disney remake of an animated classic. There are two reasons that this film exists, and neither is because anything was missing from 1994’s furry Hamlet . The first is to show off genuinely dazzling visual effects, technological marvels that give us photo-real animals in an absolutely convincing setting. The second is to showcase the ability of Disney and director Jon Favreau , following 2016’s reimagining of The Jungle Book , to assemble a world-class voice cast. But it’s still not enough to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great king of the past.

The Lion King 2019

It doesn’t seem right to describe this as "live action", when the visuals were created in the London offices of visual effects wizards MPC. Whatever its category, the immediate and overwhelming impression is so life-like that you expect David Attenborough to start narrating at any moment. Every hair and whisker is in place, every footprint raises a puff of dust. You'll believe that Pride Rock is a real place somewhere in Africa, watching over a landscape kept in careful balance by the stewardship of its great lion king, Mufasa. He is voiced, once again, by James Earl Jones , because some things are sacrosanct even in this mixed-up age. Our hero, Mufasa’s son Simba (JD McCrary; replaced in adulthood by Donald Glover ), is just as cute and clumsy as ever as he takes his first steps into the big, wide world.

Beautifully crafted and carefully conceived, without ever entirely justifying its existence.

The big problem with this photo-realism, however, is that animal mouths are not designed for words, and their faces do not express human emotion. What we gain in realism we lose in expression, even in their limpid eyes; it’s distinctly jarring when these cats speak, and even more when they break into song. You can't help but mentally impose the performances of their 2D predecessors and see far more, well, animation in the older characters.

This emotional gap is somewhat covered over by a talented voice cast, with Chiwetel Ejiofor making a bitter yet seductive Scar and John Oliver snarking up a storm as the fussy Zazu. But it's not until Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen rock up as Timon and Pumba, respectively, that the film finds its groove. Favreau gives them their head, and they inject a much-needed shot of humour and energy into all the Shakespearean drama of Pride Rock. For a while they succeed in lifting the pace from a stately big-cat stalk to a full stampede, at least until Simba’s old pal Nala ( Beyoncé Knowles-Carter ) turns up and drags him back to save the pride from evil uncle Scar’s predations.

It’s all beautifully crafted and carefully conceived, without ever entirely justifying its existence. A few new songs increase the running time and chances of an Oscar, yet mean it sometimes drags before the lost prince returns to reclaim his throne. So, you might feel the love tonight, but perhaps not quite as much as before.

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The lion king (1994), common sense media reviewers.

the lion king movie review

Musical king-of-the-beasts blockbuster is powerful, scary.

The Lion King (1994) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

This isn't an educational film, but it does provid

The Lion King focuses on the idea of family, love,

Simba learns to face his problems and how to be a

There are some seriously scary scenes and bloody f

Flirting between Simba and Nala, who are eventual

While there's no consumerism in the movie itself,

Parents need to know that The Lion King is considered one of Disney's greatest animated musicals, but it does have some scary moments. The most disturbing violence is the death of Simba's father, Mufasa, by a stampede of wildebeests. The bloodthirsty hyenas, who scavenge for food and threaten Simba and his…

Educational Value

This isn't an educational film, but it does provide many lessons about family and responsibility.

Positive Messages

The Lion King focuses on the idea of family, love, and sacrifice. Mufasa's willingness to save Simba exhibits unconditional love. As Simba grows up, he comes to understand that he has a responsibility to his father's kingdom to take his place.

Positive Role Models

Simba learns to face his problems and how to be a good leader. He demonstrates courage, perseverance, and humility. His parents are selfless and loving. Some have remarked that the hyenas' characterization brings some negative stereotypes to mind.

Violence & Scariness

There are some seriously scary scenes and bloody fights between animals. In one harrowing sequence, a father lion is trampled to death by a stampede of wildebeest after saving his cub. That parental death is a pivotal point in the movie, and it haunts the son throughout the second half of the film. Another lion is responsible for his brother's death and later tries to get rid of his nephew. A group of hyenas terrorizes two cubs and eventually acts as a scavenger army. A character is killed by hyenas, but viewers don't see the actual murder.

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Sex, Romance & Nudity

Flirting between Simba and Nala, who are eventual mates.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

While there's no consumerism in the movie itself, this is one of Disney's biggest blockbusters and has myriad merchandise tie-ins, including video games, toys, straight-to-DVD sequels and even a Broadway musical.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Lion King is considered one of Disney's greatest animated musicals, but it does have some scary moments. The most disturbing violence is the death of Simba's father, Mufasa, by a stampede of wildebeests. The bloodthirsty hyenas, who scavenge for food and threaten Simba and his friends, are also frightening. But despite a few sad sequences and a few evil characters, the overall message is one of hope, love, and family responsibility. Note: The movie was rereleased in 3D in 2011, which added to the intensity of the more frightening scenes. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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the lion king movie review

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (84)
  • Kids say (196)

Based on 84 parent reviews

This movie is perfect!

What's the story.

THE LION KING is the story of Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a child and Matthew Broderick as an adult), the cub of Mufasa ( James Earl Jones ), the king of the jungle. Simba "just can't wait to be king." But his evil Uncle Scar ( Jeremy Irons ), bitterly jealous of Mufasa, wants to be king, so he arranges for Mufasa to be killed in a stampede and makes Simba think he's responsible. Simba runs away and finds friends in Pumbaa the warthog ( Ernie Sabella ) and Timon the meerkat ( Nathan Lane ), who advise him that the best philosophy is "hakuna matata" (no worries). Simba grows up thinking that he has escaped his past, but his childhood friend Nala finds him and tells him that, under Scar's leadership, the tribe has suffered badly.

Is It Any Good?

One of Disney's biggest hits, this excellent film has echoes of Shakespeare, bringing to mind the plots of both Richard III and Hamlet . The Lion King was not just a movie but a marketing phenomenon: This blockbuster was the highest grossing film of 1994. Of course kids won't know -- or care -- about that; they'll just be enthralled by the memorable songs and great characters.

The scene in which cub Simba's father, Mufasa, is trampled to death, is both sad and genuinely scary. And some of the fights between animals later in the movie can be frightening as well. But the lesson Simba learns -- that you have to stand up to your problems instead of running away from them -- is a solid one.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about facing your problems instead of running from them as Simba does in The Lion King . Why doesn't the idea of "hakuna matata" or "no worries" always work? Can anyone get through life without a little worry and conflict?

Talk about the violence and scariness in this movie . What was the most disturbing part? How would the movie be different without the intense moments? How did music and other factors contribute to the intense scenes?

How do the characters in The Lion King demonstrate courage , perseverance , and humility ? Why are these important character strengths ?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : June 15, 1994
  • On DVD or streaming : October 4, 2011
  • Cast : Ernie Sabella , Jeremy Irons , Matthew Broderick , Nathan Lane
  • Directors : Rob Minkoff , Roger Allers
  • Inclusion Information : Gay actors
  • Studio : Walt Disney Pictures
  • Genre : Family and Kids
  • Topics : Friendship , Music and Sing-Along , Wild Animals
  • Character Strengths : Courage , Humility , Perseverance
  • Run time : 89 minutes
  • MPAA rating : G
  • Awards : Academy Award , Golden Globe
  • Last updated : February 18, 2023

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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The Lion King Reviews

the lion king movie review

Regarding this version, it does not contribute anything significant or new. Once again we find ourselves under the problem of current cinema, its lack of originality. In addition, the film has several technical and aesthetic problems.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/10 | Jan 27, 2024

the lion king movie review

It doesn’t matter if the story is identical if we cry all the same. It doesn’t matter if we know what’s coming if we still feel nervous and worried about the characters. The Lion King is one of Disney’s best remakes so far, on par with The Jungle Book.

Full Review | Original Score: A | Jul 24, 2023

the lion king movie review

The Lion King 2019 is Disney at its worst, a soulless carbon copy of a vastly superior film that exists only to pander to nostalgia and reap financial benefit.

Full Review | May 27, 2023

the lion king movie review

The Lion King is a beautiful film with stunning effects. The cinematography has visuals that make you feel like you are in Mufasa’s kingdom experiencing the adventures of Simba right alongside him.

Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Apr 11, 2023

Unfortunately, John Kani (Rafiki) and Alfre Woodard (Simba’s mother Sarabi) are wasted in their underwritten and one-note roles, as is Beyoncé.

Full Review | Dec 7, 2022

the lion king movie review

There is simply no amount of money Disney can come up with to have the animals emote.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Aug 20, 2022

the lion king movie review

With Disneys new version of The Lion King, the studio's recent trend of remaking their classic hand-drawn animated films with live actors and photoreal animation has broadened the definition of Uncanny Valley to include animals.

Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4 | Feb 26, 2022

the lion king movie review

Like every other Disney remake, theres a disposable feeling to this incarnation. Its content to be a solid cover version of a classic, destined to live in the shadow of its predecessor.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Feb 21, 2022

the lion king movie review

The thing that I love about this version... is that they really take into consideration our fascination with kitten videos.

Full Review | Sep 29, 2021

the lion king movie review

It feels like nothing more than an empty ploy to line the pockets of studio execs.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/5 | Jun 25, 2021

the lion king movie review

Certain elements of the new version of The Lion King could have worked better, but the filmmakers went above and beyond in creating an immersive world for the characters to exist, and the classic story has never looked better.

Full Review | Feb 18, 2021

the lion king movie review

A stunning technical achievement that feels like a risk-free exercise in nostalgia that will entertain your eye but likely won't engage your heart.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Jan 31, 2021

the lion king movie review

If you've been waiting for a beat-for-beat remake since Disney started this whole "reimagining" thing, then no worries! This movie ticks all the boxes.

Full Review | Jan 27, 2021

the lion king movie review

To its credit, it's frequently difficult to tell when the animals - and especially the backgrounds and environments - aren't actual photography (and none of it is).

Full Review | Original Score: 5/10 | Dec 7, 2020

the lion king movie review

The 'Lion King' is engaging, cinematically beautiful, and showcases some of the rich cultural traditions of Africa. Though at times, the CGI was a little distracting.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Nov 15, 2020

the lion king movie review

By working so hard to make it look like a National Geographic film with all the genitals removed, Jon Favreau and his team have created something that, while it is kinda cool to look at, is soulless

Full Review | Oct 19, 2020

the lion king movie review

While the remake does result in being an admirable visual-effects experiment, it still plays things too safe in terms of story structure.

Full Review | Sep 24, 2020

the lion king movie review

Can you feel the love tonight? Um, no. Actually I can't.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.0/4.0 | Sep 14, 2020

the lion king movie review

A beat for beat remake may prove enough from some, but there's no denying that this is simply a less compelling, emotionally vacant re-hash of a story that has been delivered with so much more imagination in the past.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Aug 28, 2020

the lion king movie review

The Lion King boxes itself in a corner, trapped by the constraints of its realistic and over-indulgent animation in a forgettable, shallow exercise that solely relies on our nostalgia as if that was enough to give it a free pass.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Aug 27, 2020

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‘Most trusted voice in the world’ James Earl Jones as Mufasa (centre), with Zazu and Simba in The Lion King.

The Lion King review – resplendent but pointless

Jon Favreau’s photorealistic copy of the classic 1994 animated feature is a virtual triumph – but why go to the effort?

D isney’s money-spinning mission to recycle its animated back catalogue with “live action” remakes continues apace. In the past few years we’ve had Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo , Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella , Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin . Coming up are Niki Caro’s Mulan , Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid , and many, many more.

Although consistently profitable, the reason for these reboots’ existence remains questionable. Did Emma Watson make a better Belle than the drawn star of Disney’s 1991 animation just because she’s “real”? With this new (and peculiarly faithful) version of The Lion King , however, the question is not whether a “live action” remake can improve on an animated classic. Rather, it’s what we should call an animated movie that eerily mimics reality while featuring no “live action” whatsoever.

Anyone who’s enjoyed an effects-laden 21st-century superhero movie will know that entire sequences (and indeed characters) are effectively hi-tech animations. Iron Man director Jon Favreau’s 2016 remake of The Jungle Book was billed as part of Disney’s “live action” slate, but beyond the figure of Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, almost nothing in the film was “live”. For The Lion King , which features no human characters, Favreau has simply taken things to their logical conclusion, using cutting-edge technology to create something that looks absolutely real while remaining absolutely unreal .

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala and Donald Glover as Simba in The Lion King.

We open with a carnival of bewilderingly lifelike creatures (from “the crawling ant to the leaping antelope”), merrily gambolling through the Circle of Life. Remember that sense of wonder you felt seeing the majestic herds of dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park ? I got that same sensation gazing at these frolicking beasts, as they follow the familiar story of a young lion’s struggle to live up to his idolised father, wondering whether I should be applauding the animators or animal trainers. While Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia movies may have shimmered with an air of digital artificiality a decade ago, Mufasa’s mane looks so natural you feel you could reach out and stroke it.

As for the savanna landscapes, their apparent tangibility seems perfectly suited to the phrase that echoes throughout The Lion King : “everything the light touches”. It’s as if cinematographer Caleb Deschanel had physically ventured into another world, bathed in the honeydew glow of an everlasting “magic hour”. Equally well evoked are the haunting hues of the expedition to find the elephants’ graveyard, and the barren landscapes of the post-Mufasa pride lands, “heavy on the carcass”.

All these settings were designed within a game engine, then rendered as virtual environments through which a “camera crew” could move, mimicking the angles and imperfections of live-action shooting. The effect is impressive, lending an apparent human touch to a computer-generated world, creating the reassuringly physical illusion of happenstance.

There are problems with this format. It’s one thing seeing a cartoon lion sing, but watching photorealist recreations of animals speaking and bursting into song is altogether harder to swallow. As ever, the mouth movements are an issue, but the main stumbling block is conceptual rather than technical. Does photorealism actually serve such an inherently fantastical narrative? On stage , The Lion King became a huge hit because the theatrical techniques used to tell this sturdy story required the audience to use their imagination. There’s little space left for that kind of collaborative experience here, as every detail is filled in, down to the very last pixel.

In the voice cast, Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter make the roles of Simba and Nala their own, while John Oliver takes over from Rowan Atkinson as news-reading hornbill Zazu. Once again, Scar’s inherent wickedness is signalled not only by his lanky gait but by the fact that he’s played by a British actor with impressive Shakespearean credentials – Chiwetel Ejiofor giving Jeremy Irons a run for his money in the evil uncle stakes. Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner have fun as warthog Pumbaa and meerkat Timon, respectively, reminding us that Hakuna Matata is basically The Bare Necessities with bells on as they teach Simba to chill out and eat grubs, concluding that life is not a self-sustaining circle but a “meaningless line of indifference”. Meanwhile, original star James Earl Jones retains his title as Most Trusted Voice in the World in the role of Mufasa, delivering industrial-strength words of syrupy wisdom about our ancestors looking down from the sky.

New songs augment the old favourites, while Hans Zimmer’s score doesn’t so much rewrite the original as subtly reconfigure its architecture. I’m still not sure what the point of it all is, but it does offer a vision of a future in which the traditional distinctions between live action and animation have dissolved into nothingness.

  • Animation in film
  • Mark Kermode's film of the week
  • Walt Disney Company
  • Donald Glover
  • James Earl Jones
  • Jon Favreau
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor

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The Lion King review: Remake might be too realistic for its own good

Jon Favreau's 2019 reboot of the classic movie offers incredibly lifelike characters, but at what cost?

the lion king movie review

  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

nahhhhhsvneyaaaaaaazababizebaba

The CGI characters in the live-action remake of The Lion King are incredibly realistic. 

The opening of Disney's live-action remake of The Lion King had me scratching my head. "Are those real animals?" From roaming giraffes to grazing rhinos, the animals seem so lifelike. And the first glimpse of Mufasa standing watch over his kingdom, mane blowing in the wind, had me squinting to make sure he wasn't an actual lion.

Disney's reboot of the  1994 animated classic gets released on Digital HD on Friday. The release date for DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray will follow on Oct. 22.

"Live action" isn't quite the right term, as the characters in the reboot entirely are computer-generated. But they seem so realistic it's hard to tell the difference. Even the lush green backdrops, with their flowing streams, swaying trees and gushing waterfalls, look like scenes from a nature documentary.

the lion king movie review

That realism -- namely, The Lion King 's use of CGI -- is what brings the film so beautifully and powerfully to life. The movie tells the story of Simba, a lion who looks forward to one day being king. But his uncle Scar also has his eyes on the throne, and his plot to overthrow Simba and his father, Mufasa, ultimately leads Simba on a journey to search for his destiny and purpose.

More Lion King

  • First reactions are in: 'Worthy of the 1994 original'
  • Lion King remake teaser sees Beyoncé roar as Nala

The live-action remake is true to the plot and music that made the animated film so memorable. In fact, it follows the original plot more closely than other reboots of Disney classics, like 2017's  Beauty and the Beast and 2019's  Aladdin . 

But what CGI offers in the way of lifelike characters, it lacks in emotional impact. 

How do you show sadness or excitement in an animal that's designed to look, for want of a better term, real? There are moments when characters' voices convey pain, joy or fear, but that's rarely reflected in the animals' facial expressions. Still, there are times when Simba's sadness or Scar's wrath, for example, is effectively conveyed through their eyes.

facebook-linked-image-thelionking-2019

It's all in the eyes.

Comedy also takes a hit in the remake, directed by  Jon Favreau . While the humor in the animated film felt timeless (on rewatching it, I find myself laughing at the same jokes today as 20 years ago), the jokes in this release feel forced. Some moments, like when the hyenas bicker about personal space, are clearly designed to elicit laughs, but at my showing at least, the audience seemed to force a chuckle out of a sense of obligation.

The characters, for the most part, aren't overshadowed by the film's star-studded cast, which includes  Donald Glover  (Simba), Keegan-Michael Key (Kamari),  Seth Rogen  (Pumbaa) and  Billy Eichner  (Timon). We're still able to see characters like Simba as separate from the actors who voice them, and it's thankfully just as easy to become absorbed in the playful antics of Timon and Pumbaa (with the added touch of Rogen's signature laugh, of course).  James Earl Jones , who lends his voice to Mufasa once again, is as commanding and powerful as in the original film, maintaining our understanding and admiration for his character.

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John Oliver voices Zazu, while JD McCrary voices a young Simba.

That's not quite the case with Zazu, who's voiced by  John Oliver . While Oliver adds a fun touch to the character, his voice is so distinctly John Oliver that I couldn't help but feel like I was watching an episode of Last Week Tonight every time he spoke. It was quite distracting.

On the other hand, there's  Beyoncé . Despite the singer's immense star power, her voicing of Nala doesn't overshadow the character, but lends an air of passion and independence that could only be delivered by Queen Bey. Not surprisingly, Beyoncé truly shines in her singing. I got chills when I heard her melodic voice in the classic Can You Feel the Love Tonight and in Spirit, a new track in the film . 

Thankfully, The Lion King stays true to the passion and emotion of the music in the original. Every song in the 2019 remake, both lyrical and instrumental, effectively sets the tone throughout the film. Hakuna Matata and I Just Can't Wait to Be King are just as lively and upbeat as their animated counterparts, and it's hard not to get choked up during Circle of Life, especially as the nostalgia kicks in. 

Ultimately, The Lion King's live-action rendition follows closely in the steps of its predecessor, but there's no need to mess with something so good.

2019 movies to geek out over

the lion king movie review

Originally published July 11. Update Oct. 10 : Makes note of the film's releases on Digital HD and on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra Blu-ray.

'The Lion King' Review: You Should Probably Just Revisit The Original Movie

The Lion King Review

Criticism is not consumer reporting, despite what some may tell you. If it was, this review of The Lion King  would be exceptionally short. I'd simply point you to Amazon, where you can purchase a digital copy of the 1994 animated film of the same name for roughly the same amount of money as a movie-theater ticket, a drink and some candy would get you for watching a new version of the same story. But criticism isn't consumer reporting; it's an attempt to analyze what does and doesn't work in any given work of art.  To discuss Jon Favreau's remake of this blend of naturalism and Shakespearean drama, and to briefly highlight how grossly misunderstood and misguided the film is, is no simple task. If you're even moderately familiar with the hand-drawn animated epic, the story of this new Lion King will come as no surprise. There is once again a lion cub named Simba who will one day become the king of Pride Rock, his virtuous and kind father Mufasa, and his embittered uncle Scar, who wants to become king himself and aims to do so at any cost. What Lion King 2.0 offers is not a new take on a familiar story in terms of character development and motivation, or dialogue, or music. No, the new comes in the form of the visual. Disney's marketing department would like me to emphasize that this is a "photo-real" movie, not a live-action remake. (Anyone who did think this was a live-action remake may be surprised to learn that animals do not talk.) Unquestionably, this film's visuals are detailed and remarkable to behold, in the same way that it's remarkable to behold a visual-effects demonstration of the newest, sleekest technology at a consumer expo. There's little doubt that the money poured into making a vivid, photorealistic version of the African plains has paid off. For most of The Lion King , it's true that you really can't see the seams. In fact, it put me in mind of the experience of watching the 2000 Disney animated film Dinosaur ; that film's opening scenes depict a dinosaur egg being taken away by a rushing river, and did so with—at the time—realistic fluidity. The trick was quite incredible...until the dinosaurs opened their mouths and began talking. The effect here is much the same. When you're not watching lions, hyenas, meerkats, and warthogs talking on screen, it's an impressive display of visual technology, a successful proof of concept. But The Lion King is not a silent film, and every time characters talk on screen, an instant sense of lifelessness sets in. As much as Favreau and the many visual-effects artists credited here have successfully recreated (at least to the eye of this viewer) the landscapes of Africa, it's in service to a misguided idea. Photo-real animals look wrong when they talk or sing. (In this version, they don't dance, because this film seems uncomfortable or unwilling to embrace its musical roots. It's a shame.) Simba, Nala, Scar, Mufasa, and the other characters here rarely are exciting when they converse with each other, because there's always a distinct separation between animal and performer. Since the animals on screen do not have expression-heavy faces — unlike the characters in the hand-drawn film — it falls on the A-list cast to do the heavy lifting. Though most of the cast makes sense with the characters they play, from John Oliver as the snooty Zazu to Alfre Woodard as Simba's prideful mother Sarabi, they almost all seem too distant from their characters. Even the legendary James Earl Jones, literally playing the same character as he did in the original, seems aloof as Mufasa instead of cuddly. That's almost certainly not a problem that starts with Jones or any of the other actors, though. For all the side-by-side comparisons you can find online of the visuals in the 1994 film and this one, the most telling comparison is between the two films' senses of humor; to be brief, only the original has one. As dark as the story gets in the original, it's often funny, vibrant, and bursting with personality. Jeremy Irons' take on the loathsome Scar is louche, laid-back, and snide. Though Chiwetel Ejiofor is an excellent actor, his subdued take on the bad guy is a sign of the film's almost deliberate lack of personality.  The two pleasant exceptions to this rule are Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as the garrulous Timon and Pumbaa, who lead the mournful Simba down a path of no worries after running away from tragedy. Though they hit many of the same beats as the original duo did, Eichner and Rogen are both funny and given room to riff and improv in ways that mostly fit with the story, managing to be both fresh and respectful at the same time. Their moments are the only time when this film works. Perhaps the truest representation of how The Lion King '19 otherwise stumbles is in a midpoint montage. As in the original, the mandrill Rafiki eventually realizes that Simba is still alive and ready to become king. As in the original, Rafiki realizes this by grabbing an errant feather that flies by his tree, somehow signifying Simba's presence. In this film, though, we watch that feather travel from Simba to Rafiki, in a lengthy montage that owes a debt to another summer-1994 film with special-effects, Forrest Gump . Creatively, this montage serves literally no purpose. Of course, it exists to show off the technology of the new Lion King . And sure, it's all photo-real. That doesn't make this story livelier or more exciting. It simply serves as a reminder of how much trickery went into every shot of something that winds up so hollow. /Film Rating: 3 out of 10

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Mufasa: The Lion King

Mufasa: The Lion King (2024)

Simba, having become king of the Pride Lands, is determined for his cub to follow in his paw prints while the origins of his late father Mufasa are explored. Simba, having become king of the Pride Lands, is determined for his cub to follow in his paw prints while the origins of his late father Mufasa are explored. Simba, having become king of the Pride Lands, is determined for his cub to follow in his paw prints while the origins of his late father Mufasa are explored.

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Barry Jenkins at an event for Mufasa: The Lion King (2024)

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Hans Zimmer talks about first North American tour dates in 7 years, the magic of composing for film

Film composer Hans Zimmer says his famous friends Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr convinced him to go on tour, joking that he “can’t hide behind the screen forever.” (March 11)

FILE - Composer Hans Zimmer poses for a portrait on July 10, 2019, at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Zimmer’s film scores have soundtracked magic movie moments in “The Lion King," "The Dark Knight” and both new “Dune” movies, to name a few. This fall, the “Hans Zimmer Live” tour will hit U.S. and Canada, marking the first time Zimmer has performed in North America in seven years. (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Composer Hans Zimmer poses for a portrait on July 10, 2019, at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Zimmer’s film scores have soundtracked magic movie moments in “The Lion King,” “The Dark Knight” and both new “Dune” movies, to name a few. This fall, the “Hans Zimmer Live” tour will hit U.S. and Canada, marking the first time Zimmer has performed in North America in seven years. (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)

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the lion king movie review

LOS ANGELES (AP) — For generations, German composer Hans Zimmer ‘s film scores have soundtracked magic movie moments in “The Lion King,” “Gladiator,” the “Dark Knight” trilogy, and most recently, “Dune” and “Dune: Part Two.” This fall, Zimmer will bring his award-winning scores to the live stage.

His “Hans Zimmer Live” tour, which sold out in Europe, will make its way to the U.S. and Canada this fall, marking the first time Zimmer has performed in North America in seven years.

The last time, as some fans may recall, was a 2017 Coachella performance.

Over Zoom from New York, Zimmer said he was inspired after “refusing to get onto a stage for 40 years” because of something his friends, The Smiths’ Johnny Marr and Pharrell Williams, told him.

“You have to look your audience in the eye. You can’t hide behind the screen forever. You know, you owe it to your, you know, audience,” he says they told him. And after Coachella, he realized: “I can do this,” he said.

Having done the run in Europe, “we’re at the top of our game at the moment,” he says of his orchestra.

Don’t expect a traditional, classical music setting or a piano concerto — at “Hans Zimmer Live,” there is no conductor, no sheet music in front of each musician, and not a single frame from any of the films he’s referencing.

“I come from rock and roll and I believe in putting on a show,” he says. “People stay with us because we give them an experience which they’ve never had before... Life is hard. Life is tough these days. And people worked hard to go to pay for these tickets, so we better pull off a show that is absolutely worthy of them coming and seeing us.”

Composer Hans Zimmer poses for a portrait on July 10, 2019, at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)

“Hans Zimmer Live” kicks off at the Gas South Arena in Duluth, Ga. on Sept. 6 and will hit 17 cities across the U.S. and Canada before concluding at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia on Oct. 6.

The tour includes stops in Hollywood, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; New York; Baltimore; Boston; Montreal and Toronto; Minneapolis; Chicago; Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Oakland, California, and Seattle.

Zimmer says attendees can expect a diverse audience. “I’ve looked out at the audience and there’s a mom with her grandson sitting next to a guy with a mohawk, sitting next to a man in a business suit, sitting next to another bunch of, you know, bikers,” Zimmer said. “So, it’s not just multi-generational, it’s multicultural.”

In more ways than one: Zimmer’s orchestra is from Ukraine; “Two weeks after the invasion started , we managed to get about half of them out of Odessa,” he says. Lebo M, who sings “The Lion King” theme, was a political refugee from South Africa when Zimmer first met him. Pedro Eustache, his woodwind player, is from Venezuela , “and he thinks he can probably never go back home,” says Zimmer.

“I have this very, very international group of players and ... part of what makes them such emotionally committed musicians is that they all have a story to tell you.”

“Hans Zimmer Live,” which has been recently rearranged, includes works from “Gladiator,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Dark Knight,” “Interstellar,” “The Lion King,” “The Last Samurai,” and “Dune.”

“Each piece is connected with the adventure of actually creating it, the adventure of actually making that movie, the adventure of the collaboration, the adventure of, you know, ‘How did we get here?”, he says. “Where did this journey start? And how can we make sure that it never ends?

“Each one of those movies is painted in color and affected by what is going on around us. And they have all been extraordinary journeys.”

All of these films and their scores are vastly different, but Zimmer’s idiosyncratic approach and arrangements should be considered the connective tissue. That, and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes an effective — and affecting — score.

“You need to be committed. You need to be honest. You can’t be sentimental,” he says of a successful score. “The other thing is, it’s the people who are performing it. Because if you think about it, the last actors that really get hired, the last actors that perform in a movie, are the musicians. So, I’m very careful about picking the people I work with.”

Tickets for “Hans Zimmer Live” will become available for purchase at www.hanszimmerlive.com , starting at March 22 at 10 am local time.

MARIA SHERMAN

Screen Rant

Arthur the king review: mark wahlberg leads a family-friendly adventure story with heart.

Mark Wahlberg leads a good ensemble cast while sweetly interacting with Arthur the dog, making for a cute and heartwarming adventure story.

  • Arthur the King is sweet and suspenseful, with intense adventure and touching canine-human bonds.
  • The film's heart and breathtaking locations elevate the emotional moments and keep you invested.
  • Supporting characters add depth, building on the theme of friendship and victory in this true story.

There have been a plethora of dog movies over the last several decades, and they each come with their own themes and character bonds. But while recent films, like Channing Tatum’s Dog , have missed the mark, Arthur the King fills the spot of tenderness that we all want to feel when watching films featuring canine-human relationships. Mark Wahlberg leads a good ensemble cast while sweetly interacting with Arthur the dog, and it’s cute and heartwarming, with the film doing exactly what it aims for.

Arthur the King is an adventure movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Simu Liu. Based on a true story, Wahlberg plays Michael Light, a pro-adventure racer who connects with a stray dog named Arthur. On his journey to win a final race, Light learns the true meaning of victory and friendship as his endurance is pushed to the limit.

  • Arthur the King is the right amount of sweet and sappy
  • The film's location elevates the adventure race & story
  • The film can drag a bit when focusing on Arthur's story
  • The supporting characters needed more focus

Directed by Simon Cellan Jones from a screenplay by Michael Brandt, Arthur the King is based on the book by Mikael Lindnord, an adventure racer whose 2018 race in the Dominican Republic led him to meet a stray dog he named Arthur the King. The film can be incredibly sentimental, but it’s also grounded by Wahlberg and his team's adrenaline-filled trek through the jungle that will get your heart racing at certain points.

Arthur The King Has Enough Adrenaline & Heart To Keep Us Invested

The assembled cast is equally up to the task of delivering the touching story..

The biggest thing Arthur the King has going for it is its heart. It takes its time establishing Arthur, in particular, whose suffering and backstory are shown and discussed throughout the film. By comparison, Wahlberg’s character feels like a slightly less developed character. Nonetheless, they’re both on a journey together, and it’s one that ultimately leads them to each other, as though kindred spirits reaching out through the jungle after hearing a call. To that end, the film pulls on our heart strings, drawing us into the story without relying on emotional manipulation to do it.

Paired with awe-inspiring locations and a good ensemble cast, the film is the right amount of soft and moving, even if it begins to dull through repetition in the first half.

The story itself, based on true events , lends credibility and authenticity to everything. The sweet, and quite often harrowing, journey is done well enough to warm any heart. The supporting characters, though they get far less in terms of story, have their own struggles to contend with. It makes the adventure race all the more encompassing because they’re not solely there to support Michael, nor are they there for shallow glory.

Even Simu Liu's Leo, who initially comes off as a jerk and a foil for Michael, has his redeeming qualities. His actions also make Michael a more complicated character, one with pent-up anger whose embarrassment after the last adventure race fueled his sense of feeling lost in life without reaching. It’s an instance of Arthur being Michael’s saving grace, but whose presence allows the entire team to soften and open up emotionally. When faced with great adversity and loyalty, Arthur the King showcases how even the best built-in walls can come down.

Arthur the King

The film is the literal example of the journey being more important than the destination, and on that front it surely delivers. To that end, Nathalie Emmanuel’s rock-climbing Olivia also has an emotional throughline that makes the adventure race seem all the more urgent because of it. Ali Suliman’s Chik is the loyal friend whose knee injury threatens to put him out of commission, but whose humor and perseverance shine through.

Arthur The King’s Gorgeous Setting Elevates The Emotional Moments

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the film’s use of its stunning locations. Michael’s team runs, hikes, bikes and kayaks their way through the jungle, and it’s nothing if not intense. One of the most thrilling moments happens when Olivia and Michael face a massive, death-defying drop when the zip line stops working. Dangling over cliffs and trees from so high up would make anyone scared, but doing so while tethered to their bikes is another thing entirely.

The moment is appropriately intense and engrossing but doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a testament to Arthur the King that its story beats don’t linger longer than they should, though by the middle, the film does start to drag on before picking back up again near the end. Paired with awe-inspiring locations and a good ensemble cast, the film is the right amount of soft and moving, even if it slightly dulls through repetition in the first half. And when Arthur joins Michael’s team, you’ll want to do nothing but root for them to get to the finish line.

Movie Reviews

Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, the animal kingdom.

the lion king movie review

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Another day, another traffic jam. A father, François ( Romain Duris ), chides his son Émile ( Paul Kircher ) for feeding the family dog potato chips. He tells his son to stay away from them as well since they’re probably not very good for him, and Émile rolls his eyes as any 16-years-old would. They argue. Émile gets out of their car in defiance since the traffic is at a standstill. Suddenly, an ambulance stuck in the opposite lane of traffic starts to wobble and out bursts a bird-like man. He escapes, and the son and the father run back to their car in shock. “Strange days!” a neighboring driver responds. It is an understatement. 

In Thomas Cailley ’s striking sci-fi fantasy “The Animal Kingdom,” the birdman is a sign of things to come. In this present-day world, some humans have started to genetically mutate into other species, morphing into winged, reptilian, beastly hybrids that the larger non-mutated society have decided to ostracize, keeping them in hospitals or zoo-like centers away from the rest of the population, even their loved ones, for the potential risk that they can hurt someone with their outsized claws, fangs, and wings. 

This was the case for Émile’s mother, Lana, who is shown only briefly at first in the hospital with fur growing around her eyes. Soon, there are other creature sightings in the background and in the forest. This is their new normal. Running parallel to these fantastic beasts are problems of everyday life – of a son challenging his father’s authority, François starting a new job, and Émile struggling to fit into his new school. Then, Émile starts to have problems riding his bike, his mannerisms are changing beyond his control, his back feels different, and soon, fur and claws appear. He is also mutating. 

“The Animal Kingdom” moves swiftly between its characters’ everyday problems and the story’s fantastical elements in a magical realist way that quickly captivates its viewer. Cailley, who co-wrote the film with Pauline Munier , uses the creatures as a metaphor for how the world responds to health crises. Because they are not understood and feared, they are locked away from the rest of this society, which recalls how some countries isolated the first wave of HIV/AIDS patients in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In the movie, characters spoke of other countries adapting to live side-by-side with the humanoid creatures and showed how politicized the issue became among Émile’s classmates and François’ boss, which mirrored the discussion around how other countries handled the recent COVID-19 epidemic and how politicized the discourse around public health and safety became around the issue. That life still continued during these “strange days” of masking, testing, periods of isolation, and family tragedy for some only makes “The Animal Kingdom” all the more relevant. 

There’s so much to cope with that Émile nursing a crush on a fellow classmate and sparks forming between François and a disaffected cop named Julia ( Adèle Exarchopoulos ) only occasionally registers next to the mortification of mutating (another metaphor for coming-of-age) and grieving. It’s difficult to move on from something when you’re still going through it, even if it is in a setting as idyllic as the way Cailley’s brother and cinematographer David Cailley captures the sun-soaked French countryside and untamed forests. As a tired dad just trying to do the best for his son, Duris does an impeccable job carrying his character’s weariness of these events opposite Kircher, who meticulously embodies his character’s adolescent anxiety and animal impulses. 

“The Animal Kingdom” is indeed a strange beast. Like “ X-Men ” minus the superpowers, it's an analogy about the way people are ostracized for differences beyond their control. It’s a premise that could have suffered with bad CGI effects, but we see just enough of chimeras that blend feathers, scales, and fur onto human skin to understand what’s happening, to empathize with both the person mutating and the fear of the people around them trying desperately to return to normalcy. There is no going back, these “strange days” are the new normal. Dad still argues with his son for feeding chips to their Australian Shepherd while he lights up another cigarette, on and on it goes. The movie is effective in its ability to make us emphasize for the hunted “others” as well as observe how humanity becomes the very thing it fears: monstrous in its attempt to restore law and order. Life is complicated like that, and yet it continues to find a way forward.

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a critic, journalist, programmer, and curator based in New York City. She is the Senior Film Programmer at the Jacob Burns Film Center and a contributor to  RogerEbert.com .

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Film Credits

The Animal Kingdom movie poster

The Animal Kingdom (2024)

127 minutes

Romain Duris as François

Paul Kircher as Émile

Adèle Exarchopoulos as Julia

Tom Mercier as Fix

Billie Blain as Nina

Xavier Aubert as Jacques

Saadia Bentaïeb as Naïma

Gabriel Caballero as Victor

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COMMENTS

  1. The Lion King movie review & film summary (2019)

    There are parts of the new "Lion King" where that second maxim comes into play, and it's beguiling, sometimes glorious. Like many "live action" Disney remakes of animated movies, this one is much longer than the original, and yet (like Favreau's "Jungle Book," still the best entry in this photorealistic remake series) it uses the extra length to make a statement, creating a sense of stillness.

  2. The Lion King

    This Disney animated feature follows the adventures of the young lion Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), the heir of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Simba's wicked uncle, Scar (Jeremy Irons ...

  3. The Lion King movie review & film summary (1994)

    Roger Ebert praises the Disney animated feature for its solemn and realistic story of Simba, a lion cub who becomes king. He also admires the voice acting, the music and the computer-assisted animation.

  4. The Lion King

    Movie Info. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub's arrival. Scar, Mufasa ...

  5. 'The Lion King' Review -- Variety Critic's Pick

    Film Review: 'The Lion King'. Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Hollywood, July 10, 2019. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 118 MIN. Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a ...

  6. The Lion King

    Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Dec 22, 2021. Jay Stone Ottawa Citizen. The Lion King, Walt Disney's 32nd full-length animated film, is a glorious hodgepodge, a jumble of styles, emotions ...

  7. 'The Lion King' Review: The Art of Herding Digital Cats

    Watching the newest version of "The Lion King" — a big-screen celebrity-voiced musical trying its best to look like a television nature documentary — I recalled a line from John Gregory ...

  8. 'The Lion King' Review: Movie (2019)

    THR reviews 'The Lion King': Jon Favreau's photorealistic computer-animated remake of the Disney favorite features a voice cast that includes Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones and Chiwetel ...

  9. The Lion King 2019: Review

    Suddenly, that iconic opening scene, with all the animals gathering to bow before the newborn lion cub Simba, held up like some sort of scepter of absolute power, doesn't feel triumphant or ...

  10. The Lion King (2019) Movie Review

    The spectacle of the movie stems from the feat of creating hyper-realistic animals, rather than anything the animals actually do. As a result, the animals of this Lion King are more animal than human, which creates an emotional distance that must be bridged by other aspects of the film, and which largely falls on the shoulders of the voice actors.

  11. The Lion King (2019)

    The Lion King: Directed by Jon Favreau. With Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani. After the murder of his father, a young lion prince flees his kingdom only to learn the true meaning of responsibility and bravery.

  12. The Lion King Review

    The Lion King Review. A lion cub is fooled by his ambitious uncle, who is next in line to the throne, that he has killed the Lion King, his father and flees their land in shame. As an adult he is ...

  13. The Lion King

    2019. PG. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 1 h 58 m. Summary In the African savanna, a future king is born. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub's arrival. Scar, Mufasa's brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own.

  14. The Lion King (2019) Review

    Published on 12 07 2019. Release Date: 18 Jul 2019. Original Title: The Lion King (2019) Another month, another Disney remake of an animated classic. There are two reasons that this film exists ...

  15. The Lion King Movie Review

    This isn't an educational film, but it does have l. Positive Messages. Focuses on ideas of family, love, duty, sacrifice. Positive Role Models. Mufasa is a wise, loving father and a caring leade. Violence & Scariness. Frightening scenes include very lifelike scenes of. Sex, Romance & Nudity. Nala and Simba fall in love as young adult lions.

  16. The Lion King (1994) Movie Review

    Our review: Parents say ( 84 ): Kids say ( 195 ): One of Disney's biggest hits, this excellent film has echoes of Shakespeare, bringing to mind the plots of both Richard III and Hamlet. The Lion King was not just a movie but a marketing phenomenon: This blockbuster was the highest grossing film of 1994.

  17. The Lion King (2019)

    Great movie. theteamavengers 15 July 2019. The lion king is propably the best live action disney movie. cgi, soundtrack character's voice they're all great. This movie deserved a 7.9 on imdb and 90 on rotten tomatoes. 148 out of 344 found this helpful.

  18. The Lion King

    The Lion King is a beautiful film with stunning effects. The cinematography has visuals that make you feel like you are in Mufasa's kingdom experiencing the adventures of Simba right alongside ...

  19. The Lion King review

    Watch a trailer for The Lion King. In the voice cast, Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter make the roles of Simba and Nala their own, while John Oliver takes over from Rowan Atkinson as news ...

  20. The Lion King review: Remake might be too realistic for its own good

    That realism -- namely, The Lion King 's use of CGI -- is what brings the film so beautifully and powerfully to life. The movie tells the story of Simba, a lion who looks forward to one day being ...

  21. The Lion King

    Chris Stuckmann reviews The Lion King (2019), starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, ...

  22. 'The Lion King' Review: You Should Probably Just Revisit The Original Movie

    Photo-real animals look wrong when they talk or sing. (In this version, they don't dance, because this film seems uncomfortable or unwilling to embrace its musical roots. It's a shame.)Simba, Nala ...

  23. Mufasa: The Lion King (2024)

    Mufasa: The Lion King: Directed by Barry Jenkins. With Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Aaron Pierre. Simba, having become king of the Pride Lands, is determined for his cub to follow in his paw prints while the origins of his late father Mufasa are explored.

  24. Hans Zimmer talks about first North American tour dates in 7 years, the

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — For generations, German composer Hans Zimmer 's film scores have soundtracked magic movie moments in "The Lion King," "Gladiator," the "Dark Knight" trilogy, and most recently, "Dune" and "Dune: Part Two." This fall, Zimmer will bring his award-winning scores to the live stage. His "Hans Zimmer Live" tour, which sold out in Europe, will make its ...

  25. 'Arthur the King' Review: Mark Wahlberg Lets the Dog Steal the

    Wahlberg plays an adventure racer who forms a powerful bond with a stray dog in Simon Cellan Jones' film based on a true story. By Frank Scheck Don't be fooled into thinking that the new film ...

  26. Arthur The King Review: Mark Wahlberg Leads A Family-Friendly Adventure

    There have been a plethora of dog movies over the last several decades, and they each come with their own themes and character bonds. But while recent films, like Channing Tatum's Dog, have missed the mark, Arthur the King fills the spot of tenderness that we all want to feel when watching films featuring canine-human relationships. Mark Wahlberg leads a good ensemble cast while sweetly ...

  27. The Animal Kingdom movie review (2024)

    In Thomas Cailley's striking sci-fi fantasy "The Animal Kingdom," the birdman is a sign of things to come. In this present-day world, some humans have started to genetically mutate into other species, morphing into winged, reptilian, beastly hybrids that the larger non-mutated society have decided to ostracize, keeping them in hospitals or zoo-like centers away from the rest of the ...