Chennai: The Lion King is a 2019 musical photorealistic computer-animated film directed by Jon Favreau. It is a remake of the iconic 1994 animated film. The 2019 version stays close to plot of the original. As the movie begins, you will be left with gasps of wonder as the visual effects are ground breaking. It is hard to imagine that you are watching animals made entirely on VFX.
At a point of time, I started wondering if I was watching an episode National Geographic or Animal Planet. The animals are so very real. Are they all tamed creatures? Three sequences were jaw dropping: The stampede at the gorge where the herd of wildebeest chase down by cub Simba. Simba and Scar’s final face off at Pride rock surrounded by ‘real Hyenas’ and forest fire. And when adult Simba sits down, a tuft of his hair travels beyond, floating through the air to fall into the hands of Rafiki, a mandrill.
The hair falls on the ground, a wisp of wind then glides it away over baked, drought ridden lands and deserts. At one point, it sticks to a tree branch and is swallowed by Giraffe. Later, we see it in the animal’s poop, which is then rolled aside by a beetle. Eventually, the tuft of hair falls in the path of army ants carrying leaves. One of the ants picks it up, which finally passes on to Rafiki. This sequence is a visual delight and left me awe struck.
In the Tamil dubbed version, two stars make it a laugh riot. Manobala as Zazu and Robo Shankar as Pumbaa offer heartwarming belly rumbling chuckles. Arvind Swamy as the cunning Scar evokes a sense of grimness and cold rage. The trio are flawless in their voice performance.
However, there are some cons while a studio decides to make a photorealistic film. The animals are restrained by the physics of ‘reality’. Remember how the musical numbers in the original were a palette of colours? In ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’, we saw animated Simba and Nala shaking legs among other animals. But here, they react the way how animals react in ‘real life’.
There face is devoid of emotions and the songs don’t have much soul. The songs maybe a let down for diehard fans of the original. It reminded me of the sole reason why the 1994 film was a hit: The songs were its soul. For the 2019 film though, it is the VFX crew who are the ultimate winners.