The latest remake of The Lion King, directed and produced by Jon Favreau, seems to have gone down well with the critics. They do agree that Favreau manages to retain the charm of the original, but the popular opinion is that he refrains from taking any risks.
The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver and Beyonce Knowles-Carter, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his original role as Mufasa.
Let’s take a detailed look at what the critics have to say:
After the initial fascination and moments of enchantment in watching the extraordinarily lifelike animals talking and relating to one another as human beings do, you begin to get used to it to the extent that it’s no longer surprising, which in turn allows the familiarity of it all to begin flooding in. The film’s aesthetic caution and predictability begin to wear down on the entire enterprise in the second half — the original animated Lion King ran 88 minutes, while this one lasts two hours. You can feel the difference. By and large, very few remakes, other than Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot reproduction of Psycho, have adhered as closely to their original versions as this one does. Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem predigested. There’s nary a surprise in the whole two hours.Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
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 Jon 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.Peter Debruge, Variety
The new Lion King gains in shock and awe while losing in character and wit. These are walking, talking animals that are realer than real and whose facial/speech patterns are eerily plausible – way past the unsatisfying oddities of Babe the pig from long ago, with moving mouths pasted on animal faces. It sticks very closely to theoriginal version, and in that sense it’s of course watchable and enjoyable. 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. I don’t quite feel like bowing, but respect has to be paid to a handsomely made piece of entertainment.Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian