Oh, the good ‘ole circle of life, it moves us all! The Lion King has made its way back into theaters 25 years later, this time in photo-realistic “live-action” by The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau. The Disney remake features an impressive cast, including Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Oliver as Pride Rock’s royals and savannah dwellers.
In the middle of all of this excitement, it's time to ask yourself, much like Hamlet once did: To 3D, or not to 3D? If you’d like to check out our thoughts on the film, you can read our official Lion King review to find out. Otherwise, It’s time to talk through how the film delivers at 3D showings! Is there more to be seen than can ever be seen with your 3D glasses? Let's take a look.
3D Fit Score: 5/5
While debates regarding if Disney needed to remake one of its most beloved films has certainly circled this release, the breathtaking visuals in The Lion King are perhaps the best case to convince an audience of its update. The film’s cutting-edge CGI is a stunning sight to behold and 3D only enhances and heightens this experience.
The goal was to reimagine the movie into the actual African Savannah locations they are based on, and Jon Favreau absolutely convinces audiences we're there. He developed The Lion King with 3D specifically in mind, and it was filmed entirely in virtual reality, where the filmmakers crafted 360-degree virtual environments and manipulated the images meticulously for 3D viewing.
Planning & Effort Score: 5/5
With the above in mind, it’s no wonder The Lion King looks as good as it does in 3D. It’s not easy by any means to make a film in a way that it feels it has 3D seamlessly in its DNA, but how well it does this is a stunning accomplishment .
From the iconic opening to “Circle of Life," to the intense fiery fight between Simba and Scar, just about every bit of animation is working in favor of the 3D experience. For fans who want to lean into the director’s vision to live The Lion King story, the 3D makes a solid case for being the superior way to view the film.
Before the Window Score: 4/5
With a young audience in mind, The Lion King doesn’t claw too far forward through the screen as one may expect. For example, when baby Simba is held out it’s not thrown into our faces. The 3D is utilized in a graceful manner that allows viewers to appreciate what’s in front of them without feeling violated by the imagery.
So while the film may not take enough chances to reach out to the audience, it’s still used quite effectively throughout the film. Between Pumbaa and Timon moving toward the screen as they sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” before Nala charges them or Mufasa suspending through the air during the stampede, there's a satisfying use of jump-off-the-screen magic.
Beyond the Window Score: 5/5
This is the aspect of The Lion King that is really worth gasping in amazement over. The depth of field displayed on screen is simply incredible and worth the price of admission alone. The environments created for this film have been crafted to show scale in a way the original animated film was incapable of.
Watching the wildebeast racing through the plateaus or Timon and Pumbaa showing Simba their beautiful greenery-filled haven full of grub is just about as beautiful and authentic as CGI can conjure up. Audiences will especially remember the deep and vast landscapes simulated in this Lion King.
Brightness Score: 5/5
While this is a facet of 3D audiences may be weary of, The Lion King looks to have taken great care in presenting bright, crisp images even with your darkened 3D glasses on. There are only a few dark scenes in the movie: such as Simba’s run in with Rafiki and at the Elephant’s Graveyard, but it’s never at a disadvantage to the viewer.
This glowing report should be followed by a warning: not every theater will show the same results because not every theater pays close attention to their projection rig. However, due to The Lion King’s primarily bright aesthetics, there will be few scenes to complain about no matter what presentation you go to.
Glasses Off Score: 4/5
What you see on screen when your glasses are off determines how much image manipulation has been done in favor of 3D. If you take your glasses off during The Lion King, you will notice frequent blurriness that will have you placing them right back on.
This is because the foreground and background have been constructed for 3D! However, because the movie has a few dialogue-heavy scenes, you could take a brief break from the shades. I still don’t recommend that you do! You asked for 3D and this truly is a 3D film.
Audience Health Score: 5/5
Another reason we often skip the 3D format is we’re afraid we’ll walk out with tired eyes from the harshness of the presentation. You won’t likely find this to be a problem in The Lion King. The visuals feel specifically and deliberately designed to allow your eyes to seamlessly adjust.
It doesn’t really feel like you’re watching a 3D movie in a sense because the design cares more about being realistic than reminding you it has tricks to pull. The best kind of 3D journeys pull all the stops without aggravating your senses and The Lion King is one of those smooth experiences.
Final Verdict: If there’s one movie to splurge the extra few dollars on 3D technology this summer, The Lion King is the film. It’s full of visual eye candy from beginning to end, that is beautifully executed with the best 3D viewing experiences in mind. In fact, even if you find yourself lukewarm about the movie itself (as many reviewers have), there’s an undeniable remarkable quality about the cutting-edge technology showcased in 3D that makes it worth the price.
Jon Favreau clearly had 3D in mind throughout the development of Lion King and wow does it show. I can’t imagine the experience being the same in 2D. So sit back, put on your 3D glasses for this one and sing “Hakuna Matata”!
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Be sure to visit our full To 3D Or Not To 3D Archive.
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