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The Lion King - We're in the Uncanny Valley now Dorothy


Let me explain.

The Uncanny Valley is a psychological theory regarding the effects of art, in this case cinema, robotics and human emotions. As something starts to look more human-like, there comes a point when it looks/feels wrong. Some people have been known to express negative emotions or feelings about the thing. This sums up my feelings towards this remake, or to be more precise, a re-visualisation of Disney's The Lion King. Let me be clear, I don't feel negative towards it. It was just unsettling. There are many moments in the film, such as towards the start when a mouse is going about it's morning routine, when one expects David Attenborough to start narrating.

The technology is astounding. The digital world the animators have created is filled with every tiny detail, every tiny movement, every breath of life that this film could be an episode of The Blue Planet. The realism is uncanny - there I've used that adjective again. So, it's a marvel of modern technology, let's move on.

This new version sticks well to the original 1994 version. The characters, plotting, etc are pretty much the same. The songs are the same, apart from a new one by Beyonce. Director Jon Favreau (known to all of us as Happy, Tony Stark's driver and Spiderman's handler) flexes his directorial muscles again, having brought us 2016's The Jungle Book, which I liked. We know Favreau can build these real worlds and he succeeds again. He has also assembled a wonderful cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Seth Rogan, Billy Eichner, Beyonce, John Oliver and James Earl Jones. All are good casting choices apart from John Oliver whose voice did not "fit" the character and poor Seth Rogan cannot sing. James Earl Jones lends his sonorous tones to Mustafa again. The other stand-out castings for me wee Ejiofor as Scar and Eichner as Timon. Eichner has a wonderful comic voice and timing.

There are laughs, lots of laughs and, to be honest, I can't recall if the jokes are new or copied over from the original. I laughed. And yes, there is also darkness. We know Disney always has darkness in their films which is why this carries a PG certificate. Some scenes may upset younger children.

As a film, I recommend it. Is it worth going to see it, even though you saw the original 25 years ago on or endless DVD repeats with your children? Yes.

It's going to make Disney another $1.5billion and maybe that's why they make them because I struggle to see why Disney are remaking their already brilliant back-catalog.

I've only given it three stars. The film has no emotional heart. Yes, the dialogue is there. The songs are there. The same story is there but there is no connection with the characters. Is that a by-product of the visual reality created? The characters are so real on the screen, like a filmed nature documentary, that when they open their mouths and speak - or sing - it just creates an odd sensation. Is that my own personal "programming"? Probably.

I felt teh original had more emotion, more heart. Maybe younger viewers will not have the same reaction to this trip into the Uncanny Valley.


 

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