The Lion King (2019) – A Movie Review

This new photo-realistic version of The Lion King is both exhilarating and redundant.

It’s a visual feast in that everything looks absolutely real. My understanding is that this film is almost entirely CGI, yet the animals, the environment–all of it–looks not only real, but also rooted in reality. You see labored breathing, you see real weight coming down on shoulders as the lions walk, you see dust in the air, you see ears twitch, you see plants in the background swaying in the breeze. It’s unreal how real it looks.

However, it’s also repetitive in that it’s a virtual copy of the original animated film. The scenes are the same, the pacing is the same, the jokes are the same, it’s all almost entirely the same. After having seen the original film several times as well as the musical, this latest version felt too much like a rote reproduction.

I also felt that the voices were detached from their characters. Yes, the animals’ mouths looked fantastic and even natural as they spoke, but the voices didn’t seem to be coming out of those mouths. The voices were too clear, too clean, and too undisturbed by the wild surroundings. In other words, the voices sounded straight from the recording booth. They didn’t match the environment I saw on the screen.

But even with that being said, I definitely recommend that you see this film. We took both of our kids, and because it’s the same, there were no surprises, and thus no scares. They do not increase the violence, nor do they display any blood. The hyenas were a little more intimidating than in the original, but my seven-year-old didn’t seem to mind them and she’s generally not a big fan of dogs or wolves.

It’s the CGI that makes this a must-see. At times, I literally could not believe my eyes. From a purely technological standpoint, there are moments in this film that will take your breath away.

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Experiencing The Lion King At Peoria Civic Center

I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Lion King, so I absolutely agreed with my wife when she said we should try to see it after tickets became available at Peoria Civic Center.  After all, according to LionKing.com, over 90 million people worldwide have experienced the world’s number one musical over the last twenty years — surely they can’t be wrong about its quality?

Our day finally arrived, so after church we hit the road headed for Peoria.  Though forty-five minutes from our house, the drive to Peoria is always incredibly quick.  We zipped along Interstate 74, crossed over the Illinois River, and we were there.  I’m pleased to say that parking could not have been simpler.  We pulled into the lot about thirty minutes early with many spaces still available.  I can’t complain about the fee either — just seven dollars!

The walk to the Civic Center took maybe … three minutes.  Once we entered the facility, we moved rapidly through a security check, and then we were in!  With a ten and six-year-old child in tow, I felt elated by the ease of the entire adventure up to that point.  I was almost giddy when we took our seats.  I love it when venues are easy to negotiate, and Peoria Civic Center proved about as convenient as possible.

Because we were so early, we used the bathrooms before getting some drinks and cotton candy — you know, the basics.  The theater itself impressed me, too.  I found it visually appealing and entirely comfortable.  We were in the twentieth row, about right in the middle, which afforded us a wonderful view of the stage.  My wife did a fantastic job selecting our tickets!

As for the show itself … those 90 million other people weren’t wrong!  I loved it, my wife loved it, and my children loved it.  If you’ve seen the movie from 1994, you know the basic plot, dialogue, and songs — it doesn’t deviate much from the source material.  However, the singing, the dancing, the costumes, the makeup, the puppets, the sets, the props — they’re amazing.  Seriously.  You might remember that my main complaint regarding Hamilton centered around the fact that, visually speaking, not much happened.  That’s not the case with The Lion King.  The senses are constantly stimulated between the nonstop music, movement, and changing scenery.

That scenery — wow!  The sets were gorgeous and, most importantly, innovative.  They displayed creative genius in portraying grassland plains, raging rivers, and ominous caves.  I realize I sound a little excessive, but I sincerely haven’t seen anything quite like it.  Wait a minute, I actually have seen something a little bit like it — Disney’s Festival Of the Lion King.  (If you want to read about that equally astounding show, click HERE and scroll down a bit.)

I don’t want to sound utterly devoid of objectivity, so I do have a few criticisms.  Namely, I didn’t think the acoustics were exceptional in the theater.  I found myself struggling to understand the dialogue at times because the audio didn’t strike me as terribly crisp.  This wasn’t a problem during the singing, but the speaking generally sounded a little garbled.  This in no way diminished my enjoyment of the show.  Even if I didn’t understand every word being said, the physical action, facial expressions, and my general knowledge of the movie more than informed me as to the happenings.  I also noticed that the dancers weren’t quite synchronized with each other.  A few were just a second ahead or behind the others.  Do I care?  No, not in the least.  I can’t dance, know nothing about the art, and am regularly in awe of those with the talent.  Nonetheless, I wanted to share my observations.

If you’re even mildly interested in The Lion King, I highly recommend you take a chance on it.  I know you won’t be disappointed.  Hurry, though.  I believe October 13th is their last date.  If you live in the Central Illinois area, you can see what’s available here: Disney Presents The Lion King (Touring) Tickets at Peoria Civic Center.

Enjoy!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)