The Lion King debuts to a Rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes after the first reviews are published. In the last handful of years, Disney has had great success producing re-imaginings of some of their most beloved animated classics. Most recently, Aladdin became a major box office smash, surprisingly moving past the $900 million mark worldwide. Others, like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, proved to be sizable draws themselves and demonstrated there was an audience for these retellings. To the shock of no one, Disney has plenty more on the way.
Up next is a new rendition of The Lion King, a remake of the 1994 animated classic that remains a beloved and treasured installment in the Disney canon. Directed by The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau, there’s been plenty of hype and anticipation surrounding the project, particularly after the all-star cast was announced. The Lion King is poised to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year, evidenced by the trailer breaking viewership records and marketing continuing to drum up excitement. And while The Lion King is sure to be a commercial success, it’s not going to go down as a critical darling.
Today, the Lion King review embargo lifted, and after the first wave was published, the film has a Rotten score on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. As of this writing, it stands at 58% with 87 reviews counted. A critics consensus has already emerged:
Though it can take pride in its visual achievements, this reimagined The Lion King is a by-the-numbers retelling that lacks the energy and heart that made the original so beloved-though for some fans that may just be enough.
This development is a little surprising, since Lion King social media reactions released earlier this week painted a more positive picture. On social media, most appeared to be in agreement that The Lion King was an astounding technical achievement and praised the efforts of the actors involved (most notably Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa). One common critique of those bite-sized reviews was that the photorealistic animals (obviously) couldn’t emote like they do in the original animated movie, but overall people seemed to enjoy it. The full reviews are more mixed, however. Everyone is quick to acknowledge the incredible visual effects that were used to bring the story to life, but for some that wasn’t enough to make up for the film’s shortcomings. An argument can be made that The Lion King is an exercise of style over substance.
That’s been the fate of many of these Disney remakes; even the ones that go down as being financially successful are largely seen as hollow retellings that lack the magic and imagination of their animated counterparts. The business incentive behind this endeavor was always clear, but from a creative standpoint, Disney’s in a tough spot. It’s always difficult to remake an acclaimed film, since there’s little (if anything) to improve upon. The best movie remakes are the ones that take an intriguing premise with potential and make the most of it after the initial attempt was underwhelming (Ocean’s Eleven, etc.). The Lion King will make money this summer, but it sounds like rewatching the original would be a more rewarding experience.
More: Why The Lion King’s Mouth Movement Looks So Unsettling
Source: Rotten Tomatoes