One rule with film in this day and age is that early social media reaction is dominated by the junket press where there’s a vested interest in them not being too critical. Therefore the praise is always going to be much higher than when the actual reviews get published, and when there’s any hesitation to gush, something’s up.
Earlier this week the social media reaction for Disney’s new CG animated remake of “The Lion King” came out and while there was the usual praise, there were a lot of little caveats – many citing some impressive visual tech at work but a lack of any emotional hook.
That has now played out in the reviews which were published this morning. With 84 reviews counted, the film stands at a disappointing 57% (6.38/10) on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s on par with “Aladdin” which is also 57% with a lower score (5.89/10) but better than “Dumbo” (46%). However more are still to come and RT scores tend to go down rather than up past a certain point. Here’s a sampling of quotes:
“It’s a stirring reminder of what can be achieved with all the talent (and money) in the world, as well as a cautionary tale of what can happen when there’s no vision to bind it all together.” – Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
“Sometimes it’s fascinating, frequently it’s ludicrous, and sometimes – like when an incredibly realistic animal dies on-screen in front of you while its only child mourns him – it’s borderline grotesque.” – William Bibbiani, The Wrap
“From the ecstatic Zulu chant that opens the film… to the thundering drum beat that ends it… Jon Favreau’s exhilarating live-action take on ‘The Lion King’ hews closer to the Walt Disney animated masterpiece than any of the studio’s recent remakes.” – Peter Debruge, Variety
“A well-rendered but creatively bankrupt self-portrait of a movie studio eating its own tail. Score D.” – David Ehrlich, indieWire
“While it’s a near shot-for-shot remake of the original, this version of The Lion King lacks much of the emotion and expressiveness that keeps people coming back to the first.” – Kendra James, The Verge
“‘The Lion King’ filmmakers and the VFX guys were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a photorealistic animated remake of a beloved Disney classic, nobody stopped to think whether they should.” – Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
“n an odd way, the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside: you soak up its astonishing photoreal visuals and marvel at the extraordinary progress that can occur within a single generation, yet still ache for everything that’s made way for it.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph
“It’s as if every creative decision were subordinate to the film’s misguided insistence on realism, on keeping the mannerisms and movements of these magically intelligent creatures ‘believable’.” – A.A. Dowd , AV Club
“In that respect, this Lion King is a faithful remake, and in terms of its technology, it’s at times quite beautiful to behold… But there’s no sense of wonder in this new Lion King-its most visible attribute is ambition.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine
“Sure, it’s all photo-real. That doesn’t make this story livelier or more exciting. It simply serves as a reminder of how much trickery went into every shot of something that winds up so hollow.” – Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm
“This is an anthro-leonine deepfake of impressive proportions, but the new Lion King gains in shock and awe while losing in character and wit.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
“The closer the movie gets to nature in its look, the more blatant, intrusive and purposeless its artifice seems.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
“Everything here is so safe and tame and carefully calculated as to seem pre-digested. There’s nary a surprise in the whole two hours.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
“It’s easy to be swayed by the craftsmanship on display, even if one wishes all involved weren’t so loyal to the original ‘King’.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International
Disney’s “The Lion King” opens in cinemas everywhere next Friday.