The Comeback King – in Depth

An Active3D Movie Review:
The Lion King 3-D

Rating (out of 5 stars): ****

I was hardly champing at the bit to see The Lion King again; no matter what format. I’ve seen the 35mm theatrical version, the IMAX version, the DVD version and – twice – the stage show. South African musician Lebo M, who had a minor part to play in the show’s creation, also cast a shadow of disrepute over the stage production when it opened locally… So you could comfortably say that The Lion King was both overplayed and tainted in my eyes.

Then there were my low expectations of the 3-D version. Firstly, its characters existed in 2-D animation format, which presents a largely insurmountable problem, dealt with further down. It’s a lot easier to do a stereoscopic conversion on a movie that was created in a computer graphic environment (such as, say, the Toy Story movies). The reason for this is the characters are already created in 3-D, within a 3-D environment. All that needs to be done (give or take a tweak or two) is to set up a virtual ‘second camera’ alongside the original viewpoint, in order to simulate binocular (or stereoscopic) human vision.

2-D animated characters have hard, cleanly-defined and outlined edges – like cardboard cut-outs – unlike the rounded edges of 3-D-animations. This means that, try as you might, the edges of the characters will always have that cardboard feel about them, and the best that the 3-D conversion team can do is “pull out” certain features such as noses, etc. This visual extrusion, or telescoping, of character’s faces, was a distracting – if expected – element of this revamped rerelease, though I learnt to live with it, in the final analysis… My reservations in that respect were largely overcome by the splendid work that the stereoscopic conversion team has done on the foregrounds and backgrounds, pulling us right into the action.

I remembered anew that this is not a shabby film to start with, and I’ve finally come to appreciate the sweep of its Shakespearian drama. And it’s a good-looking film that looks all the more striking in 3-D splendour. And to think that I had been looking forward to being disappointed!

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