The Lion King Review Roundup


Disney’s The Lion King is one of its most beloved animated films, as it followed in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast by delivering audiences a film that blended traditional animated techniques while also incorporating the latest advancements in computer technology. Not only was the film a visual delight, but the soundtrack delivered audiences a number of iconic songs, including “Hakuna Matata” and “Circle of Life.” Following in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast once again, Disney has delivered a “live-action” adaptation of the film, which uses photorealistic imaginings of the characters while bringing together top voice talent.

Director Jon Favreau previously delivered the adaptation of The Jungle Book, which earned resoundingly positive reviews, though audiences were apprehensive ahead of The Lion King‘s release as the images look impressive, but seem to lose some of the charm of the original animated endeavor. However, enlisting the voices of Donald Glover, Beyonce, and James Earl Jones to reprise his role as Mufasa has fans excited for the adaptation.

With critical reviews now hitting the web, it’s a mixed bag of reactions, with some critics noting the strengths of the original are prominently featured while other critics deem this film completely unnecessary.

Scroll down to see what critics are saying about The Lion King!

Slide 1 of – Brandon Davis

“All things considered, The Lion King was not a movie which needed to be remade but its flawless visuals and impressive voice cast’s efforts justify its existence. The emotional punches come as expected, the musical cues carry it through, and [Seth] Rogen and [Billy] Eichner make it truly entertaining. The legacy of the original may in fact be enhanced by the effort to replicate its magic, while a new generation of families is told a hearty, visually gorgeous, and entertaining new story.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 2 of 10IndieWire – David Ehrlich

The Lion King demands that we suspend our disbelief at the same time that it tries to convince us that we don’t have to, and the resulting dissonance is so draining that it becomes hard to remember how special this story once felt. Zazu worries that the circle of life has become ‘a meaningless line of indifference,’ but The Lion King more closely resembles a perfect ouroboros. It’s the work of a studio that’s gobbled up the rest of the film industry and is still hungry for more. The Lion King feels less like a remake than a snuff film, and a boring one at that.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 3 of 10Forbes – Scott Mendelson

“Favreau himself used this technology to better use in crafting a ‘new’ version of The Jungle Book that was pitched to smart kids. This movie conversely feels aimed at dumb adults. I did not demand a new Lion King that was superior to the original, nor do I consider that film to be an untouchable piece of artistic gospel (the stage show has some interesting alterations). But this is merely the same movie with a new coat of paint that renders it less magical. It may be worth seeing once for the visuals, but its redundancy and inferiority has rendered it artistically irrelevant.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 4 of 10Variety – Peter Debruge

“By focusing his attention on upgrading the look of the earlier film, 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 — which 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.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 5 of 10The Hollywood Reporter – Todd McCarthy

“The more pronounced realism delivers some scenes with a shade more power, notably the sight of the elephants’ graveyard and Simba’s multiple (too many, actually) encounters with the ever-prowling, teeth-baring hyenas; the new vividness no doubt accounts for the shift from a G to PG rating. There’s a spiffy cover of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ sung by Beyonce (who voices Simba’s childhood friend Nala) and Glover, along with a new Beyonce number, ‘Spirit.’ Perhaps the greatest special effect of all is the luster of the lions’ fur and coats. But 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.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 6 of 10Entertainment Weekly – Leah Greenblatt

“[Favreau] (or more accurately, an untold collective of studio wizardry) lavishes care on the look of the film, over and over: It’s in every breeze that lifts Mufasa’s mane; in the Serengeti sweep of sun-drenched plains and sleepy giraffes; even the wriggly grubs squirming beneath an overturned log. If the film feels a little airless for all that open space, maybe it’s because the movie’s CG is so elaborately, meticulously made that it doesn’t leave much room for the spark of spontaneity. The story and the songs, with a few notable if hardly unexpected updates, are fondly faithful to the original; the magic mostly intact. Another reboot was never terribly necessary, maybe — but it’s good, still, to be King.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 7 of 10The Independent – Clarisse Loughrey

“As with Disney’s other remakes, there’s an attempt to rectify a few lingering issues. The female characters are given more prominence than before, Scar no longer falls into the old trope of equating effeminacy with villainy (as wonderful as Jeremy Irons’s original performance will always be), and even the hyenas feel more fleshed out, especially thanks to Florence Kasumba’s formidable performance as their leader, Shenzi. As much as this new version can never hold a candle to its predecessor, there’s never a sense that it’s trying to. If anything, The Lion King uses nostalgia as a springboard for experimentation, finding new ways to tell old stories, while reminding us what makes those stories feel truly timeless in the first place.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 8 of 10Polygon – Matt Patches

“As The Lion King unfolded, I desperately wanted to embrace Favreau’s choices on their own merits. Yet each scene asks us to admire the recreation while pushing the visuals into the realm of the grotesque. The hyenas in the original are a wily pack of sidekicks. The hyenas in this movie are gnarled, slobbering animals who will absolutely terrify small children when they hunt down young Simba and Nala. More disturbing is how, for all the realism, Disney still optimizes the corporate synergy. Timon and Pumbaa’s fourth-wall-breaking shtick (‘Every time that I fa—’ ‘Hey, not in front of the kids’) worked for every age group. Timon and Pumbaa performing 40 seconds of ‘Be Our Guest’ is insidious.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 9 of 10io9 – Kristen Lopez

The Lion King is extremely gorgeous and worthy of being seen on the biggest screen possible, but like the last few Disney features to come down the pipe it can’t help but feel completely unnecessary. Eichner and Rogen are worth the price of said admission, however, and families who have worn out their VHS and DVD copies will, no doubt, want to experience this again. It’s fun, it’s gorgeous, second verse same as the first.”

You can read the full review here.

Slide 10 of 10Time Out – Joshua Rothkopf

“The sincerity of The Lion King—best expressed in the still-mighty ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight,’ strongly sung by Beyoncé and Glover—has aged better than any of Disney’s goofier asides, and this update is smart to stay out of the way of that showstopper, along with Hans Zimmer’s shimmering underscore. (Elton John’s aggressively upbeat new end-credits song, ‘Never Too Late,’ won’t be entering the pantheon.) But it’s not long before the digital weirdness throws you out of the mood again. Always effortful and desperate to impress, The Lion King may serve as a virtual substitute for going to the zoo (don’t slide down the Black Mirror cynicism of that idea), but let’s hope it never replaces such outings, nor its 1994 forebear, a passport to something far more sublime.”

You can read the full review here.