Barry Jenkins Follow Up to the Photorealistic Lion King Remake Will Likely Suck Through No Fault of His Own.

At the time of writing this initial draft Barry Jenkins (director of Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk) is announced as the film maker given the task of trying to make something interesting out of the inevitable sequel to Disney’s photoreal Lion King remake. Jenkins is one of those filmmakers adored by a particular stripe of left leaning socially conscious film Twitter.  From this writer’s perspective his films have never struck an emotional chord beyond admiration. There’s no denying both his previous films are solid (with the latter enabling Mahershala Ali probably the best individual actor working right now .) Discerning individuals will see the naked calculation of whatever Disney boardroom birthed to this final decision.) The executives will imagine themselves sitting there soaking in the good press from hiring a filmmaker like Jenkins who based on his first two  films has a small but inbuilt audience for the rest of his career (even if the majority of this is comprised of film critics.) Regardless of Jenkins previous work he has an impossible task Disney likely will not be interested in supporting him with. Making the National Geographic aesthetic of the remake emotionally engaging.

As a huge fan of Jon Favreau’s initial Jungle Book adaptation the prospect of getting him and the team that put that film together to do a live action remake of The Lion King was not terrible in concept. That said when the remake arrived in cinemas It was surprising to see how constrained Favreau and his team clearly were in terms of injecting any major personality into this photorealistic re-imagining. it was far from the worst thing ever (and certainly has value in terms of sheer visual quality) But regardless of any visual merit Favreau’s film may have It otherwise possessed very little imagination and there’s no reason to suspect that Disney won’t hamstrung Jenkins into employing the same technique  into whatever Pride Rock related story he and his team wish to tell . If this is the case Jenkins filmmaking CV is irrelevant. Disney will not expect anything beyond simply showcasing the same techniques that were established with the initial remake. When used in this context photorealism is a major barrier to emotional connection that no filmmaker can realistically overcome. The first entry film made 1.657 billion dollars worldwide it’s unfair to expect Disney to want anything beyond more of the same.

Jenkins may have the most potential of all the filmmaker Disney has tapped for  the live action remakes (or in this case sequel to the remake) but if previous entries in this sub-genre or anything to go by he will be hamstrung into making a certain kind of film that takes the necessary corporate boxes. He won’t be able to overcome the lack of emotional attachment baked into the aesthetic choices of the initial remake. He will likely get a big paycheck and the profits from his work on the sequel will enable development on whatever project he wants to do next. Regardless of this the live action Lion King had a series of inbuilt strengths and weaknesses that Disney will not want to deviate from (especially when brand recognition alone will guarantee profit.) For a film maker of Jenkins clear ability this is a massive shame. His sequel will likely be a visually impressive but emotionally distant 5/10 through no fault of his own.

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