The reviews are coming in…
Unfolding like the world’s longest and least convincing deepfake, Jon Favreau’s (almost) photorealistic remake of “The Lion King” is meant to represent the next step in Disney’s circle of life. Instead, this soulless chimera of a film comes off as little more than a glorified tech demo from a greedy conglomerate — a well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail.
We are living in the moment where Disney is the biggest media empire on the planet. To be sure, Disney has always been Hollywood’s true force to be reckoned with, however, with the acquisition of Star Wars and Fox, Disney now owns almost every single important intellectual property outside of Harry Potter and Star Trek.
Why am I then so willing to declare Disney to be “dead?”
Aside from Tron, I have never had an affinity towards Disney. It wasn’t something I was taken to as a child. I was more than happy to consume Loony Toons and Scooby Doo than to go to Disney’s all-singing/all-dancing picture shows. I am not willing to say that Disney’s history and craftsmanship is something to be dismissed out of hand. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the output that Disney had provided over the years were very much deserving of the accolades. To call a Disney film a masterpiece at one point in time was well earned.
So what happened? Disney simply churns out product now. The Lion King remake is being labeled as “Live Action,” but let’s not fool ourselves… It’s just as animated as the original classic. Now, I have not seen The Lion King, but I have been watching in curiosity as the reviews have been trickling in. This trend of Disney giving the “live action” treatment of their previous masterpieces seems to cater more to the mind-numbing nostalgia market, rather than fly the banner of the care and detail that went into their past work. I like Jon Favreau, so no offense to his abilities, but there is no point to create a paint-by-numbers technological disaster. There is nothing redeeming to something like this. To me, this rings of the shoddy straight-to-video sequels that the Mouse had churned out on VHS for years. Those were as much cynical cash grabs as this.
The Lion King comes on the heels of their recent Aladdin remake starring Will Smith. That was a film that not only looked ridiculous with their “Blue Man Group” interpretation of the Genie, but also received a large amount of ridicule for it. Before that, there was the Beauty and the Beast and Kenneth Branaugh’s Cinderella. Just this past week, The Little Mermaid had been announced with the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel. I think she’ll do fine; I have no idea who she is. Nor do I care. It drummed up controversy because Halle Bailey is a woman of color, and of course, you had the inevitable “outcry” of having a black Little Mermaid.
I just want to ask:
- Who REALLY cares that The Little Mermaid is black?
- More importantly, Who REALLY wants a “live action” Little Mermaid?
This controversy is going to do much more for The Little Mermaid‘s box office than it really deserves. When it comes to these “live action” remakes, do we really need them? Exactly how many Lion Kings and Little Mermaids do we need? Has the creative department at Disney fallen so low that they can’t come up with a wildly original tale? Why can’t traditional animation come back—is it too expensive? I suspect the truth is in the bottom line. I’m not a Disney expert, so forgive me if I fuck up the following details. The last traditional animated film Disney has made was 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. I have not seen it, but the clips I saw from it looked quite wonderful. There is more life in its trailer than anything I’ve seen from these so-called “live action” films.
I suppose that at the end of the day, it doesn’t take much to entertain children. All you need are a bunch of flashy and colorful characters you can bounce across the screen. If you have enough special effects, they can be entertained for days. When it comes to a child’s entertainment, I guess the bar doesn’t have to be high enough to get parents to buy tickets. I know I’m the one out of touch here; Disney’s making these decisions for a reason. My wife recently watched Aladdin and loved it, so what do I know? I told her we’d go see The Lion King, maybe we’ll have fun. Maybe I’LL have fun. I just look at these and wonder what is the point? Is this truly a cynical cash grab, or am I just a bitter snob?
I don’t know, I suppose I would just like us to demand better because none of these seem earned. Disney’s legacy is now fully entrenched at this point. With Marvel and Star Wars blowing up the screens every few months, it doesn’t matter, does it? I know that I would be more than happy to throw down a few dozen bills to catch Halle Bailey’s Little Mermaid on Broadway. I would be ecstatic to finally catch Julie Taymore’s Lion King! However, if they are just going to be beat-for-beat remakes on film, I’m sure there would be at least three other films at the cinema I would rather spend my money on.
Time will tell.