The Lion King live action: How not to remake a masterpiece

2019-07-19 00:00

The Lion King is a timeless tale. One that should not have been taken lightly when the decision to flip this animated feature, to live action,  was taken. 

I was allowed back in after promising I wouldn’t cry, and experienced a different emotion; I fell in love with one of the best stories ever written – a masterpiece.

As my mind floats down memory lane, I sit down for the live action version feeling worried for the story I love so much.

Will they simply transpose images from the original and keep most of the changes minimal, like The Jungle Book live action did? The Jungle Book also kept all of the classic songs whereas the Netflix version of the story, Mowgli, did away with most of the tenderness.

The Lion King plays it safe in that it walks the tight rope between both methods. The first scene is epic, almost exactly like the original.

They pan to pride rock as Rafiki (John Kani) presents a young Simba to the animal citizens of the pride lands.

They should give Kani the order of Mapungubwe for his portrayal of Rafiki. Say what you will, but when characters from say, Chernobyl in Russia, or Kenya sound like they are from the US or the UK, it’s automatically wack.

The first hiccup I experience is the realness of it all. When the cub Simba visits the watering hole with Nala, the two sing their first duet, Can’t Wait to be King.

All the animals at the watering hole were supposed to hit an elaborate routine where the hippos spray water as the flamingos vogue on their backs.

This didn’t happen and the notes in the song were also slightly different.

New arrangements of course, which happened again when Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) unveils his plan to the hyenas. They didn’t march about as steaming geysers erupted into the air.

Also, there is a reason you don’t know half the voices in the original, it’s because they were all singers with no hype, which worked.

Seth Rogen plays Pumba; he can’t really sing that well and neither can John Oliver who plays Zazu. Ejiofor, who can’t sing either, screeches his way through my personal favourite Be Prepared. But they all voice act brilliantly.


The one song producers did justice to was Mbube as the hedonistic duo that is Timon and Pumbaa are taking a stroll. Hans Zimmer, Pharell Williams and Lebo M did well to let this banger, by the late Solomon Linda, just be.

I thought the moral of the story was about being brave, but watching it as an adult, I realise I was wrong. 

I’m sure you know the story, or at least you think you do. The truth hits me as Timon and Pumbaa explain their philosophy Hakuna Matata. What I realise is that, Simba (Donald Glover) runs away from his responsibilities, his job and life to smoke weed with his new found buddies. Lions eating bugs, I see right throught it.

Look, the story is Kenyan and there is more Zulu in it than anything else. Nala (Beyoncé Knowles) sounds like Nala from Houston.

The best scene happens near the end and the hyenas are not as funny as they were. Those homies are actually quite unsettling. Also, it’s “Can you feel the love tonight”, not in the late afternoon or early evening.

This will make mad money, there’s even an album for some reason. Just get with it. Besides, it is still the same story. Hollywood needs to give serious thought to the idea of remaking a masterpiece.

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