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The Lion King’s first reviews are in, critics rip Disney apart for a ‘soulless, creatively bankrupt’ remake

The embargo on The Lion King’s reviews has been lifted and shockingly, the critics are not happy with the film. It was dismissed as ‘a soulless chimera of a film’.

hollywood Updated: Jul 12, 2019 11:05 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Lion King,The Lion King Review,The Lion King Reviews
The Lion King reviews are in are they are not positive at all. Many are complaining that the film is a soulless, shot-by-shot copy of the original. (AP)

The much-anticipated new version of animated movie classic The Lion King landed with a whimper rather than a roar on Thursday with critics hailing it as visually impressive but tame in terms of character and storytelling. The Lion King, Walt Disney Co’s latest remake of its own beloved animated films, directed by Jon Favreau, shows off advanced techniques that blend virtual reality, live action and digital imagery to bring a hyper-real feel to the animals and African settings.

But early reviews said the overall result was a letdown, although most critics conceded the movie will perform well at the box office where some analysts are predicting an opening weekend of around $150 million when it arrives in North American theatres on July 19. The film has received 58% ‘rotten’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes after aggregating 105 reviews.

Young Simba, voiced by JD McCrary, Timon, voiced by Billy Eichner, and Pumbaa, voiced by Seth Rogen, in a scene from The Lion King. ( AP )

“Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem predigested. There’s nary a surprise in the whole two hours,” wrote Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter. He predicted, however, that the film “will be duly gobbled up by audiences everywhere like the perfectly prepared corporate meal it is.”

The new version, starring Beyonce and Donald Glover as the voices of lions Nala and Simba, is a faithful, sometimes shot for shot, recreation of the 1994 film, including much of the original dialogue and Elton John’s hit songs. “That raises the inevitable question of, ‘Why bother?’,” wrote Variety critic Peter Debruge, calling the film “undeniably impressive but incredibly safe.” “The answer can be spelled in dollars,” Debruge wrote.

The Lion King starts its international rollout in China on Friday and arrives in the rest of the world in the middle of next week. The 1994 film was a $968 million global smash that spurred a long-running Broadway stage show and more than 20 international productions.

Despite the hyperrealism of the new version, some critics found the film lacking in emotion and said the life-like singing and talking lions, hyenas and warthog felt odd. Some reviews were unusually harsh. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich called the updated version a “soulless chimera of a film [that] 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.” Alissa Wilkinson at culture website said the movie lacked magic, calling it a “bloated retread without a reason.”

This image released by Disney shows Scar, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor, in a scene from The Lion King. ( AP )

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wrote, “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.”

“Be prepared for a crushing disappointment,” wrote Scott Mendelson at

The all-star cast includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon.The Lion King arrives in theatres in India on July 19. The Hindi dub of the film will feature voices of Shah Rukh Khan and his son Aryan as Mufasa and Simba, respectively.

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First Published: Jul 12, 2019 11:05 IST