The Lion King live-action remake is just about what you would expect from a live-action Lion King remake, for better or for worse. The movie delivers almost beat for beat the original Lion King movie with the added element of realism, which is exactly what was marketed. However, anyone who is hoping for this remake to go further than the original may end up walking out quite disappointed.
This movie honestly serves as a perfect example of the pros and cons of Disney's recent live-action remake fad. Starting with the positive, The Lion King is visually stunning and innovative, taking the CGI skills Hollywood already had at its disposal to a brand new level. The animals of the movie look incredibly realistic, and even act like the animals do in real life. It's incredibly clear the amount of effort that was taken to make this movie feel real, both behind a computer and in researching the actions and habits of these animals.
The downside of the movie being live-action, however, is that it loses some of the heart of the original. For example, whereas the animated movie could show a character being happy by giving them a giant, cartoon-ish grin, the live-action movie can't do that as obviously. Some of the scenes suffer due to the way that the movie is adapted, but this isn't exactly at the fault of the filmmakers. Many of the elements of the original Lion King simply can't be translated realistically to a realistic world. You can't have two lions riding an ostrich, riding some antelope, riding some anteaters, riding some giraffes, riding some hippos, riding an elephant in a live-action movie and make it look real, so because of this, the musical number "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" was downgraded a bit. However, that's to be expected from a live-action movie, so as long as you go into the movie with that perspective, you should be fine.
Outside of the live-action element of things, there are aspects of this movie that were great, and some that were not. Timon and Pumbaa absolutely stole the show from the moment they appeared on screen. Chiwetel Ejiofor gave a fantastic performance as Scar, making him both a terrifying and somehow relatable villain. The musical numbers were all a lot of fun and about as good as they could be, outside of "Be Prepared." Some of the added elements actually added quite a bit to the movie and its overarching theme, particularly one scene that beautifully visualizes the Circle of Life about halfway through the movie using a small ball of hair.
Alas, one of the most disappointing aspects of the movie came in the form of the movie's veteran actor James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in both versions of the movie. While Jones was absolutely astounding in the original Lion King, his latest performance felt incredibly lacking in comparison. Jones lacked both the charisma and strength that he had last time. The prime example of this was when Mufasa shouted "Simba!" to scold him after rescuing him from the Elephant Graveyard. In the original movie, this line was shouted in a way that felt powerful and terrifying, chilling the bones of almost anyone who heard it. This time, however, the line was said almost casually. While it was apparent that Jones was meaning to say it in a scolding and powerful manner, it lacked the heart and strength of the original. While Jones's inclusion was certainly nostalgic, Disney may have had better luck recasting Mufasa just like they did for every other character.
Unlike director Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book, which went leaps and bounds past the mediocre classic it was based on, The Lion King doesn't do much to surpass the original, but that's okay. Unlike the original Jungle Book, The Lion King was an almost perfect narrative that didn't really need much help to make it better. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Instead, the latest Walt Disney Studios movie, The Lion King simply serves as a new way to tell an already beloved story. It doesn't try to replace the original, but instead means to co-exist with some different elements. While the remake is far from a perfect movie, it should still be incredibly enjoyable for any Disney fan who isn't expecting it to surpass what is arguably an unsurpassable classic.