Synopsis: Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub's arrival. Scar, Mufasa's brother -- and former heir to the throne -- has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba's exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his.
Main Feature: The original "The Lion King" is a seminal movie, classic and iconic. It is something so majestic that is should be neither trifled with nor retooled. And yet, with Disney on the prowl for its older animated features to be remade, they still wanted to mess with Mufasa and his pride. Director Jon Favreau, who previously did the very admirable "The Jungle Book" remake for Mouse Ears & Co., brings the same technical artistry to its visual rendering of the well-known characters of Mufasa, Simba, Nala, Scar and the rest. The problem is, there is nothing new to speak of. "The Jungle Book" turned the story and film into a straight-up movie sans songs (aside from a minor reference to the "Bear Necessities"), but "The Lion King" recreates each musical number from the original. That is only the gravy on the somewhat soulless piece of technical mastery the film represents. In the end, its another animated film. Exquisitely crafted, no doubt, but still just a form of animation. I'm not downplaying the value of CGI artistry in film. Heck, I originally wanted to do that for a living at one point. But since the film's structure and story doesn't change from the original, it only feels the same type of medium: animation. The voice cast is impressive, especially when James Earl Jones is the lone carryover from the original--how can you top that booming bravado he bellows from under Mufasa's mane? Donald Glover, Beyonce, Seth Rogen and John Oliver, among others, are admirable selections. But this still feels like lip service to the fans that grew up with the original: this movie, no matter what, could do no wrong.
Bonus Features: Surprisingly, the extras are light. Most focus on the music (music videos by Beyonce and Elton John; talking behind the scenes of recreating the musical numbers) and the technical design of the film. The notable one different from those two aspects is covering the timelessness of the story, which irks me. Since "Lion King" is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (which I adore), I find it insulting that the rerun-esque nature of this version would justify no changes in story to the original animated film. Sure, "Hamlet" has been done many times, but with different angles, context and settings (notably, Kenneth Branagh's masterpiece 1996 version set in the 19th century), but redoing something so special and unique seems harmful.
Final Call: The remake of "The Lion King" looks wonderfully realistic from a technical POV, but it feels like story scraps leftover from the feast that was the 1994 classic.