In some surprising Disney news, the company announced their latest film in development…a sequel to the live-action Lion King. This wasn’t met with the same level of excitement that a typical Disney movie announcement would, but regardless, it’s coming.
In preparation for the live-action sequel that nobody asked for, we’re looking at what didn’t work about the first, and whether or not this sequel can be salvaged.
What didn’t work about the first?
The first live-action adaptation of The Lion King didn’t bomb, but it wasn’t met with the same praise as the original. While you of course have to admire the technical achievement of this photo-realistic adaptation and the all-star vocal cast, many viewers held the same sentiment, it just wasn’t as compelling as the original.
The opening scene of the 2019 Lion King hits you with nostalgia immediately. Just like the original, it begins with Circle of Life. The song is arguably one of the most famous Disney songs of all time, and the updated version did not disappoint. To see realistic settings and animals in this familiar scene was exciting. Unfortunately, that excitement wore off as the rest of the movie went on.
The problem wasn’t in the plot, it’s basically shot for shot remake, just with cgi animals instead of 2D animation. No, the problem is more in the execution. However impressive photo-realistic animals may be, a lot of the emotion and feeling from the original is lost. Yes it’s impressive to see a realistic looking Simba, but that wasn’t enough to hold the attention of many viewers.
The original Lion King was bright and vibrant, using an animation style that was able to bring out emotions in the characters on screen. None of the scenes from the 1994 film feel dull, with unforgettable color palettes creating a whole mood and world. The 2019 update did not have this same magic. In making everything realistic, the vibrance of the original animation style was lost. With not much to offer other than realistic looking sets and animals, this adaptation left the public conscience just as quickly as it came. There was just nothing to hold on to
Is there hope?
If the sequel has one thing going for it, it’s Barry Jenkins. For those that may not know, Jenkins is an award winning writer and director, best known for the 2017 Academy Award Best Picture Moonlight. With 3 critically acclaimed directorial features under his belt, he is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. And yes, he’s directing this sequel. With his previous features being quiet indie films, a big Disney blockbuster is certainly a change of pace. Film lovers are conflicted on whether to hate or love this move. However, plenty are warming up to the idea. If anyone can bring something fresh to a lifeless adaptation, it’s Barry Jenkins.
In addition to that, it was also revealed that this sequel would go back and forth between present and past, giving a Mufasa origin story. This alone has potential to shake things up in comparison to the first. At the very least, this won’t be another shot for shot remake. The unpredictability alone could definitely attract audiences.
With the flexibility of an original storyline and Jenkins at the helm, maybe theres hope for the sequel after all. We’ll all just have to wait and see.