On Wednesday, Disney released the second trailer for their hotly anticipated reboot of The Lion King. It looks … familiar.
Far be it for this writer to condemn the idea of a remake. The It reboot was a thing of chilling beauty. I’ve watched The Green Hornet remake more than once. Hell, even Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes had rare moments of charm. I don’t begrudge a remake or a reboot, even a bad one. I just crave a fresh take. This version of The Lion King ain’t it.
A quick(ish) example: All the way back in 1998, critical darling Gus Van Sant was coming off the Oscar success of Good Will Hunting when he got an idea. Why not use his newfound studio clout to pay tribute to one of the greatest films of all time: Alfred Hitchcock’s slasher film Psycho. Of course, when it came time to execute the remake, Van Sant opted not to reimagine the original 1960 classic. Rather, the filmmaker chose to re-film Psycho in what amounted to a shot-for-shot remake.
The only difference was that the film was in color, and you had to see Anne Heche naked. Nobody was clamoring for either of those changes. In fact, for all his cache with film critics up to that point, the resounding response to 1998’s Psycho (and the film’s current description on RottenTomatoes) was that Van Sant’s take was totally “pointless.”
Van Sant’s love for the original Psycho was so devout that the director couldn’t bring himself to change anything of importance. For good reason, too. The original Psycho was about as close to perfect as a horror movie gets; just because it’s old doesn’t mean the original film has lost an ounce of impact.
Which brings us to this summer’s The Lion King, the next in Disney’s growing number of rebooted animated classics. Things started well enough, with a lively remake of The Jungle Book, an animated film that, by all accounts, improved upon the 1967 original. Expanding and improving on the original was an easy enough feat; it’s not like people were putting up much of a fight to retain the look and feel of the original.
After The Jungle Book came 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, a remake of the only Disney animated film to get nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. That semi-sacred status, it seems, made changing the story more challenging. The result was a movie that made oodles of cash but left critics somewhat underwhelmed. The primary criticism: the film was too faithful to the original.
Now, we’re on to The Lion King, easily the crown jewel of Disney’s 1990s animation Golden Age. Perhaps even more than Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King is serious hallowed ground. Maybe that’s why the first glimpses of this remake seem as hamstrung by adulation as Gus Van Sant’s take on Psycho.
It’s impossible not to worry about a static repeat when you see shots like this:
Sure, Beyonce rocking a duet of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is tantalizing, but is it really enough to warrant a hundred million dollar remake that is so rigorously beholden to the original that they recast James Earl Jones as Mufasa? At this point, the biggest upside to the new Lion King is the hilarity of the inevitable trauma children will feel when they see Mufasa trampled to death in super high definition.
Hope your kids are tougher than you were in 1994.
You don’t have to wait until July 19 to shatter your children’s innocence. The 1994 Lion King is streaming on Prime Video and Google Play right now. Honestly, it might be worth nerfing the experience for your tots before you trap them in a dark IMAX theater for two full hours of death and desolation.