It's probably wrong to call this week's big release a test of Disney's remake strategy since it's a foregone conclusion that it's going to be a success, at least for the first weekend. But it's one of the first that could have people questioning their overall sanity and whether remaking absolutely *everything* is a good idea artistically.
Weekend Forecast for July 19-21, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
July 19, 2019
The Lion King is the third of the films Disney saw fit to take from the animated vault and turn into "live-action" films, following Dumbo (artistically interesting, too weird and unfamiliar to have much of a chance) and Aladdin (kind of embarrassing for all considered but a success anyway because of course). I put "live-action" in heavy quotes here since there is very little of this film that's not generated by a computer in some form or another, with the animated lions and hyenas and warthogs being traded in for... differently animated lions and hyenas and warthogs. That it's lifelike animals mouthing (?) the words of dialogue, instead of the more expressive cartoon versions of the original takes this into uncanny valley land, though people likely won't realize that until it's far too late.
The story is the same one from the first time around, with young Simba waiting for his father to die so he can inherit the reins of power, until his deceiving uncle schemes him out of it with a coup, only to have his corruption result in disaster. Meanwhile, Simba lives a bourgeois lifestyle in exile before being called back to reassert authority over the savannah. To me this just points out that the animals should be taking control of their own destiny instead of bowing to the will of a calcified ruling class (No, *you're* reinterpreting a beloved children's classic through a neo-Marxist framework). Also, there's a bunch of pretty songs.
Donald Glover plays adult Simba, with James Earl Jones returning as the voice of Mufasa because who else could be him. Other big roles go to Chitwetel Ejiofor, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, John Oliver and in a weird upstaging role, Beyonce as the voice of adult Nala. But hey, get the world's biggest singer for the soundtrack why don't you.
Reviews are among the most dismal for this line of films since Disney started rolling them out (which is to say, only mostly good), which has led to a lot of outrage given that it's basically the bestest animated movie ever and what are you idiots talking about. To which I would note - it's not the plot that you're remembering as great (pretty pedestrian, really), which is mostly what this film is taking from the original. It's the animation, which loses a *lot* in the transition to photo-realism and Snow Buddies effects. Jon Favreau, who did wonderful things with The Jungle Book movie that kicked off this whole mess, seems to be constrained by the need to make these animals look like the real deal, when Jungle Book had some leeway in terms of expressivity. To wit: it is entirely possible for a film with the exact plot of The Lion King to be bad, and we may be seeing the way in which that happens.
But you're still gonna see it, cause it's The Lion King, in the same way that you saw Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (poor, sweet anti-corporatist Dumbo). It's a full on blitz like only Disney still has the ability to pull off. The Lion King was once a top 10 all time time, but is still in the top 25, which a fairly remarkable statement for a film from 1994. There are only two older films in the top 25, both of which had significant re-releases (OK, Lion King aussi. But still). This leads well into its likely popularity for this iteration, and should open to a massive $170 million despite those shaky reviews.
Spider-Man: Far From Home will finally leave top spot after two weeks and very close to $300 million. It's inches away from surpassing Homecoming's box office, and showing that Spider-Man is back after the dismal Spidey 3 and Amazing Spider-Man movies. This should see around $25 million this weekend, getting close to around $400 million domestic for its final total. Questions are still there about Phase 4, but the post-Endgame MCU definitely has potential.
Toy Story 4, despite its weaker open, is still on pace for around $400 million itself. Possibly facing some in house competition, it'll stick around $13 million this weekend.
The creature feature Crawl, despite getting some of the better reviews of the summer, only opened to around $12 million, pointing to a sub $30 million domestic total. It should see around $6 million this frame.