The Lion King 2019 remake has just been released, and now that I have seen it, I want to write my thoughts on it. This really can't be done without comparing it to the original, and given that I have also seen the Broadway musical, I feel that I may as well write a comparative review all three versions in this article.
Please be aware that this article may contain some spoilers for the new remake movie.
The Original: The Lion King (1994)
This is the version that virtually everyone is most familiar with. If you were a child growing up in the 90s, like myself, there is a good chance that it had at least some impact on your childhood.
I will keep this review relatively short as we all know this version, and as it is my favourite film you know that it will be a very positive review.
Every single time I watch this movie (and that's a lot of times, I tell you... I know it all word-for-word by heart and have for at least 15 years) I think it's brilliant. The story flows perfectly, the humour fits in well, the characters and songs are extremely memorable... there is the odd little thing that bothers me though. The main one is the question of Nala's parentage - who is her father? There must be a backstory there, as neither Mufasa or Scar can be her father if we are to avoid the problem of incest. And it is probably a very interesting backstory.
I have also often wondered the circumstances of Nala leaving the pride to "find help". They do not go into this in the original version.
How Simba survived to grow into an adult lion on a diet of insects has always stumped me too... but perhaps I should just leave that explanation as "Disney magic".
Less importantly, I would like to know how Scar got his scar. I have come across a story before telling this, but what I mean is I would like to know from the film itself so I can consider it canon.
The Musical: The Lion King on Broadway
I have been fortunate enough to have seen the musical version three times over the years (though never on Broadway itself). The performance is truly worth the money you pay to see it. It is the longest of all three versions, as it includes a lot more songs, and a few added scenes.
In this version, one of the most notable changes is that Rafiki is now female. This was done to increase the number of strong females in the cast (in the original we only had Nala, Sarabi and Shenzi). I'm not generally one for liking a major change in a character, but I absolutely loved Rafiki in every performance I have seen, she is hilarious and just overall brilliant!
We also see more of the lionesses in the musical, and this means that we also see more of the bond between them and how well they work together. For example, there is a scene where they are hunting a gazelle together. There is also the scene in which Nala leaves the pride (in this version it is more of an exile situation rather than her running away to find help), and this involves one of my favourite songs which she and the lionesses mournfully sing as they part ways.
The question of Nala's parentage is still unanswered in this version, but Scar does try to force her to be his queen when she reaches adulthood. She resists, and this is what leads to her leaving the pride as I mentioned above.
We also see more of Simba's struggles with remembering his father as an adult lion, and he has an additional song where he mourns the loss of Mufasa.
Overall the story is generally the same as the original, and some parts of the dialogue are the same, while others are a little different or new altogether. I do like the expansions they make on the plot, and I highly recommend seeing it if you have the chance.
The Remake: The Lion King (2019)
It has just finished its first weekend in theatres, and there are some mixed reviews appearing online. So what do I think of it? Well, you are listening to a massive Lion King fan, so naturally, I enjoyed it. It really is just a copy of the original, and for that reason it is always going to be looked at in comparison with the beloved animated version rather than being judged on its own merits.
I don't think anyone will ever say that it's better than the original. It can't be, as it hasn't added anything new. And to be honest, I'm quite glad that they didn't change it, like they did with Dumbo. It doesn't need to be changed, as the original was so well done. And I suppose to change it would be to risk stuffing it up.
Yes, there are mild differences in dialogue (but they don't affect the story at all), and there is an added scene where Nala sneaks away from the pride under Scar's reign. It is also implied that Scar wanted Sarabi as his mate at some point in the past, but that she chose Mufasa. And those points are really the only extra things you get out of seeing this movie.
There is a new song "Spirit", sung by Beyonce while Simba is on his journey back to the Pridelands, but it is really just a nice background effect and adds nothing new to the story.
While I didn't want any real changes to the story, I had hoped that some of my questions from the original might be answered (after all, if a remake is going to be very similar to the original, shouldn't they at least elaborate on a few things?). They did elaborate on Nala leaving Pride Rock, but what I had hoped most for was some reference to her father or how she and her mother came to the pride. Unfortunately they did not explore this at all, and I will just have to rely on my own headcanon to explain this.
I must admit that I was a bit disappointed in Be Prepared in the remake. The original is my favourite villain song, but here it was barely a song, more of a sing-song monologue. But at least there was some reference to it.
It was quite amazing to see the film done as a live-action, and the animation was spectacular (I know it doesn't quite make sense that I'm saying live-action one minute and animation the next, but I guess what I mean is live-action look). It does have the drawback of not allowing the characters to have emotional facial expressions, but that doesn't mean that I still didn't feel choked up after Mufasa's death. And young Simba's face is absolutely adorable in this film.
Overall, I think all three versions are great. Definitely watch the original film and the Broadway musical if you can. If you love the original, you will probably enjoy the remake as well, but I don't think you're missing much by not seeing the remake.