The Lion King - 2019 (Blu-Ray)
Jon Favreau’s reimagining of The Lion King arrives on blu-ray/4K this week, bringing a slew of special features with it. Is the new version worth adding to your home entertainment shelves, or should you pass it up? Check out our full review to see our thoughts!
The original animated Lion King is still one of my all time favorite Disney films. From the remake’s announcement, through its many trailers, I was all on board the hype train for it. I enjoyed the film upon its initial release, but understood some of the issues others have had with it. As such, I was interested in watching it again at home, if only to see if it’s able to hold up on a repeat viewing.
This is a tough one. Much of my enjoyment from the initial viewing in theaters came from the sense of awe the film managed to bring. It’s an absolutely stunning film visually and every frame feels like the impressive accomplishment it is. When the music kicks in, I felt those old chills run through me, and the story itself remains timeless.
The problem, however, is that this new version doesn’t do a great job of recapturing the heart of the original that makes it so engaging to watch. Technically, The Lion King (2019) manages to do everything right, and hits just enough of the right notes to be fun (Timon and Pumba are great, the music is solid, and the new material is pretty good). That makes for a tough sell when it comes to the blu-ray, however.
I still enjoyed my re-watch of the film, but without the initial awe of the spectacle before me, the cracks begin to show more prominently. I had fun with it, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t see myself getting the itch to throw it back in the blu-ray player any time soon. In fact, when I think more about it, I don’t imagine a time where I’d picked this one up off the shelf instead of the original animated film if I feel like watching The Lion King.
This crushes me to say, considering how much I wanted to love this new film. It’s still breathtaking, but without the necessary substance to give it the same appeal as the original. That said, if you DIDN’T see it in theaters, I think it’s still worth seeing at least once.
Sight and Sound
As I’ve mentioned a couple times already, The Lion King is GORGEOUS. The level of detail is staggering, and I’m not just talking about the animation on the animals. The backgrounds are vibrant and teeming with life to make the surroundings feel like real-world locations. The amount of minute details that can be seen going on around the primary action on screen is crazy.
All of this is highlighted by the impressive blu-ray transfer; and I imagine the 4K is eye-meltingly good. The image is crystal clear and offers up deep black tones to make every element stand out in stark detail. From the blades of grass moving in the background, to the slight ruffle of feathers on Zazu during a regular conversation, you can make it all out thanks to the crisp image.
The surround sound is equally impressive in the transfer, and truly immerses you in the digital world they’ve created. Everything is still given proper priority so I wasn’t having to adjust the volume between action/dialog heavy scenes. In terms of technical quality, the blu-ray absolutely delivers on the best parts of the film.
The Bonus Features
The Lion King blu-ray set comes with a DVD copy of the film, digital movie code insert, and all these special features included on the disc:
The Journey to “The Lion King”
The Music – Go inside the studio with the cast and crew as they work to honor and elevate The Lion King’s beloved music.
The Magic – Discover how the filmmakers blended the traditional filmmaking techniques with virtual reality technology to create amazing movie magic.
The Timeless Tale – Filmmakers and cast reflect on the story that has moved generations and share how this Lion King carries a proud legacy forward.
More to Be Scene – Recording studio and layer-by-layer progressions of some of most iconic moments in “The Lion King.”
“Circle of Life” – Peel back the layers of effects and go behind the scenes of this iconic musical moment from the film
“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” – See all the effects, talent and fun that went into creating this vibrant version of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” for the movie
“Hakuna Matata” – Join Donald Glover (Simba), Seth Rogen (Pumbaa) and Billy Eichner (Timon) in the studio for the making of this memorable scene.
“Never Too Late” (lyric video) by Elton John
“Spirit” performed by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
Audio Commentary – By Director Jon Favreau.
“Circle of Life”
“I Just Can’t Wait to be King”
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
“Never Too Late”
Protect the Pride –Director Jon Favreau, the Lion Recovery Fund and conservationists highlight efforts to protect the majestic lions and their home.
As is always the case with Disney’s releases, the bonus features are stacked. I was most interested in seeing the behind the scenes featurettes to see how they brought these animals to life in such stunning detail. These didn’t disappoint, even though they were fairly standard BTS information.
Everything else is pretty fun, but I’m not sure many viewers will find themselves coming back to them more than once (well, maybe the music videos for the kiddos). The wealth of features on the disc definitely makes a better case for the blu-ray set than the movie on its own, though I wonder if only die hard Disney fans will ultimately care.
While I would encourage people to go ahead and give this version a watch for themselves, and there’s a lot of solid bonus features to check out, I’d say rent it first before deciding to make the buy.