Is Our Generation Too Critical For Films Like The Lion King Remake?
It was all set to go so well. Disney bringing back to life the film that captured the hearts of a generation. We were ready to be crushed all over again by the death of Mufasa and uplifted by the story of Timon, Pumba and Simba, now rendered in incredibly life-like CGI with a voice cast that would make pretty much any ensemble look sheepishly down at its feet. The Lion King was set to be a hit in just about every way. How could it not be?
And yet, so far it isn't.
Of course, there's no doubt that The Lion King will make its money back, but Disney must have thought they had a nailed on Best Animated Picture nominee for next year's Oscars in their retelling of the classic African tale. On Saturday, Rotten Tomatoes tweeted that the film was barely hovering in Fresh territory, with 121 reviews largely concluding that while visually stunning, the remake is essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the original cartoon.
Today, The Lion King sits on 57 percent, becoming the sixth Disney live action remake to slip into Rotten Territory from nine attempts. Critical reviews aren't everything, of course, but upon first glance at the film's 5.3/10 rating on imdB, it looks perilously close to wading into the waters that just last month swept up Disney's Aladdin remake and carried it into 'meh...' territory.
That's not to say either of these films will go on to be unsuccessful. Aladdin is famously now the most lucrative film of Will Smith's extremely lucrative Box Office career, and it's likely that people will go and watch The Lion King in even greater droves. But are they likely to be impressed by what they see?
The main problem faced by The Lion King is one that's plagued not only Disney's previous attempts at live-action remakes, but just about every poorly-received retro reboot to hit cinemas and TV screens in the last few years: it's target audience has not just grown up, but it's grown into a generation so critical that it simply can't be pandered to with sheer nostalgia anymore.
Straight away, you can point to films that realised this in two other Disney projects: Spider-Man: Far From Home and Toy Story 4, both of which are aimed at The Lion King's target audience and both of which are designed to evoke the same sense of sentimentality from said viewers.
Spider-Man did it originally by wrapping up a classic superhero tale in the charade of classic teen drama, while Toy Story pushes its boundaries further in terms of characterisation with every release to keep itself feeling fresh. The Lion King did neither, choosing instead to lean far too heavily on visual splendour to prop up a film that didn't deviate at all from something that millennials are more than willing to rewatch time-after-time anyway.
Due to sites like Rotten Tomatoes and the rise of social media, your average movie-goer is far, far more exposed to the ideas of what makes a film good and bad than they were even a decade ago. The level of cinematic debate once reserved for industry experts are now directly accessible to anyone with an opinion on Twitter.
With sites like Twitter being the echo chambers that they are, it doesn't take long for lukewarm reviews to snowball into something far worse – hence the reason that review embargoes are now harsher than ever before.
And with Disney's planned The Little Mermaid already earning itself a fair share of disgruntled debate online, Disney are going to have to have a long, hard think about whether or not it's going to remain sustainable selling nostalgia to a group of moviegoers who, above all else, are inclined to pick things apart.