Disney’s crass rehashes of its extensive back catalog haven’t really been aimed at me, by and large. The Jungle Book had beautiful jungles, but some of those musical numbers…yikes. Our family unanimously hated Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to see Dumbo, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or live-action brand extensions such as Maleficent, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, or Mirror, Mirror. (Snow White and the Huntsman found ways to surprise me, but that wasn’t Disney.)
I therefore have no plans to see Jon Favreau’s nearly Warholesque repurposing of Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ animated classic The Lion King…and yet I’ve spent half my Thursday reading the first wave of opinions out of skeptical curiosity. After the first five reviews I read from critics and websites I follow on Twitter, I saw patterns emerging. And thus the above artifact was born. Now I can make a game out of reading still more reviews.
Broadway’s take on The Lion King blew us away on our 2011 road trip to Manhattan, so it’s not that I think the original film is holy writ. (This is, to be candid, why I won’t come within 100 yards of the all-new all-different all-wrong Aladdin. That’s the Disney classic nearest to my heart.) But the reviews confirmed every suspicion I had when the project was first announced, even before casting had begun. The original required no significant improvements, made the most of its medium, enraptured millions of viewers with its confluences of talents and creativity, and has converted new fans with each new generation. Any cross-media transplant that isn’t performed delicately and with the most selfless aesthetic intentions in mind would sustain damage in the process. Hence where I’m at today.
To be fair, some critics have loved it more than others, albeit none of those I’ve been reading regularly. Among the dozen I’ve read so far, my favorites include Bilge Ebiri’s at Vulture, David Ehrich’s at Indiewire, and A. A. Dowd’s at The AV Club. Most found something to compliment; none gave it a solid A. Unless someone wants to buy me a ticket, their thoughts and my homemade bingo card are as close as I’ll get to the film until and unless it drops on Netflix. And, as has been the case for Beauty and the Beast so far, maybe not even then.
Can’t wait to see if Mulan upholds its lofty trailer’s promises of at least giving us something different. Improved in ways, even? Bringing its own fresh ideas to the table, if we dare dream of Disney encouraging or even allowing aspirations.