Let’s get the first, obvious question out of the way first:
“Does the Lion King, strictly speaking, need 3D?”
The simple and direct answer to that is:
Do not, however, let that stop you from going to see it. Although the Lion King fares very well in its original 2D form, and although I probably would not have missed it much had I missed out on this one, the 3D version certainly does not make for a poorer movie experience. If anything it is a splendid excuse to treat the family to an afternoon in the theatre. If you have young children, even better. At least half the audience present at our viewing were six years or younger, most of them had obviously see the movie before, and most of the parents were probably themselves around the same age when they first saw it in 1994. That’s the Circle of Life in action right there.
My own oldest daughter was three years old at the time, and I think I can safely say that this movie experience marked her for life, and by that I mean in a good, nay, wonderful way. Her journey through the Circle of Life brought her to spend a year in Disney World, with still a month left to go as I write this, and to be there just when this 3D remake of her lifetime favourite came out, and to experience it at its very source; Disney World’s own cinema theatre. I don’t think you can top that easily.
A theatre half full of children during The Lion King is a bit of a wonder. It’s obvious that this movie appeals to all ages; the temptation to break out into sing-along together with the equivalent of several kindergarten classes of youngsters during “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata” was almost irresistible. In fact you can strike “almost” from the record, and I certainly wasn’t the only parent who fell for the impulse. Yeah, you other moms and dads out there; I could hear you! And there was the little three year old girl, poor thing, who mourned the death of Mufasa throughout the rest of the movie … even though she laughed heartily when Banzai the hyena was launched into the thorns afterwards.
Thankfully they had skipped the extended “Morning Report” which, I hate to say, bugged the heck out of me when I bought the DVD. It’s a fun little piece in its own right, but it’s just … when I remember Simba’s pouncing lesson from the original, and get that song instead, it ruins one of the movie’s better moments, and would have done much better as a “deleted scene” in the extras section. Just my two tiny cents on that subject. Moving on!
So what about the 3D? Allow me to enter geek mode for a bit (as if you could stop me). The danger of a 3D remake, or even any movie where the third dimension was added entirely in post-production, is that it’s tremendously hard to get it right. With reference to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2”, which for my blog entry I dubbed “The Depthly Shallows”, it tends to be done either a bit to much or a bit too little, or just plain wrong. So also for this one, although I make allowances; “The Lion King” is not a live action film, nor a 3D computer animation, so every aspect of depth perception must be simulated from scratch. There is no impossible magic to it. The trick of making 3D from 2D images has been done before and done to death. If you look you will notice flaws; in some places you notice the “layers” that the animators have used to add depth; elsewhere the locations of objects or characters in 3D space are mutually inconsistent, or you sense that an object or body close to another passes impossibly into and through it. Or you find that the foreground and background have been nicely placed, but a close-up of a face looking at you appears flatter than it should, a bit like Lord Voldemort‘s nose.
But I’m picking serious nits, I may not be entirely fair, and quite possibly the majority of you wouldn’t even bother to look for these things. Overall the 3D has been very nicely done, especially with landscapes that tend to draw you into the screen. Simba chasing after Rafiki through the thicket is a roller coaster ride. The wildebeest stampede is awesome. I could go on, but I won’t. Watch it yourself and make up your own mind first hand, and make sure you bring your inner child along; it’s even better if you watch it together.