One of the best things about Jon Favreau is that he loves breaking new ground in the places storytelling can go.
In “Chef,” we got an introspective look at what film means to Favreau as he took us on a deeply personal journey through his mind with food as the guiding metaphor.
It was inspiring to see a director go back to basics in such a cathartic feel-good movie about falling back in love with film–I mean cooking.
With “The Jungle Book,” his reinvigoration to push boundaries brought us one of the best Disney live-action films that found potential in a new landscape to tell beloved stories. With “The Lion King,” the technology that was introduced in “The Jungle Book” is simply too good.
The photo-real environments and animation of wildlife are completely elevated in Favreau’s remake of the 1994 animated classic. I liken it to Walt Disney’s innovative work creating very realistic first-of-their-kind animatronics of animals for the parks in rides like the Jungle Cruise.
When you watch this Lion King, it truly feels like you’re immersed in the wilds of Africa and seeing Hamlet-inspired lion feuds. It looks straight up like a Nat Geo show in Dolby vision.
The photoreal animals in “The Lion King” are an incredible technological feat that is a commendable exploration of what the future of film can look like.
But like advancements in animatronics, there’s only so far that the suspension of disbelief can be stretched. The film absolutely works to lay the foundation of what we can reach.
However, the emotion of the performances and story are limited by a real animal’s inability to emote.
And that made scenes that were once easy to extend ourselves to relate to in the animated film feel bewildering. It’s hyper-real, which may be needed to keep some of the fantasy aspects of animation from its predecessor for character design to marry these two great powers.
In “The Jungle Book” and in “Detective Pikachu” and even in the past with the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” it’s way easier to believe those animals/creatures have complex lives by their facial design. Do we believe it more because there are humans in the film to play off?
“The Lion King” will make you feel a sense of wonder for many reasons, including memorable new takes on iconic scenes and stand-out comedic and musical performances..
But it will also make you wonder why it doesn’t fully fit together despite the best of technology and powerful performances.
Maybe kid audiences, won’t feel a sense of battling to keep a suspension of disbelief, but it will be very interesting to see the direction of this medium going forward.
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