This observation from Georgia O’Keeffe may be all I need to explain why I’m not particularly interested in director Jon Favreau’s new version of The Lion King.

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

I agree.

If an artist’s primary goal is to make something “lifelike” — that is, if they’re just trying to produce something that matches what we see in the “real world” — they are reducing art to a paint-by-numbers game, a chance to show off their ability to duplicate the details that they perceive.

That’s not art. Art is an interpretation. As the great novelist Chaim Potok said in a Mars Hill Review interview, art is “a relational experience. Art happens somewhere along a relational arc, between what you are and the object of creation.”

That is to say — art is made up of imaginative decisions, decisions that reveal the artist’s human experience of something, and that goes beyond the mere facts of the information registering in the device of the eye.

The Lion King, if is to be remade, opens up an opportunity for a thoughtful new experience of ideas we’ve encountered before.

Like Simba stepping into Mufasa’s footprint, this remake reportedly has a long way to go to equal the impact of the original.

The original Lion King is not a film I particularly like. I find its storyline to be made of some of myth-making’s most familiar and basic beats, and I don’t find a lot to admire in the distinctive details of its story — especially in its uninspiring “hero,” who are are led to root for primarily because he has been harmed, not for any remarkable aspects of his character or convictions. However, there is some beauty and artistry in some of its animation, some personality in its voice work, and some catchy (but also blandly commercial) characteristics in its Broadway-boilerplate songs.

So, no — I’m not hurrying out to see this new Lion King. I invite you to challenge me, to change my mind. Tell me what I’m missing that was worth the $15 ticket. Otherwise, I’m going to save my time and money for more interesting cinema.

To borrow a word from one of my favorite critics, the greatest threat against little Simba isn’t a predator. It’s “taxidermy.”

And I really am open to having my mind changed.

After all, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book, and I ended up enjoying it very much — as did Steven Greydanus of The National Catholic Register, who ventures to explain why that remake is so much better than Favreau’s new Lion King movie. (See the link below.)

If you’re looking for a more detailed review from someone who’s seen it, I recommend the following:

Steven D. Greydanus at Decent Films:

[T]he programmatic decision to follow the original virtually shot for shot and line for line — more slavishly even than Beauty and the Beast or this spring’s Aladdin — forces us to constantly gauge the diminished emotional impact of each line and moment, if we know it well, against the original.

The melancholy thing is that, of the three Renaissance cartoons adapted to date, The Lion King was the one I felt had the most room for improvement — and, after The Jungle Book, Favreau was the one guy I would have liked to see take a shot at it.

Alas, the mission wasn’t to improve The Lion King, only to mount it as realistically as possible. Favreau wasn’t hired as a creative, but as a taxidermist.

Justin Chang at NPR (listen below):

The [movie] plays like a Hollywood blockbuster disguised as a National Geographic documentary, or perhaps the world’s most expensive safari-themed karaoke video. The movie feels both overwhelmed by its technical virtuosity and shackled by its fidelity to the source material.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the original Lion King, which beneath its brightly entertaining surface has always struck me as too emotionally calculated by half. But that film feels like a triumph of form and content next to this movie, because its story about a fictional animal kingdom feels so vividly and gloriously cartoonish in every detail. The new Lion King is so realistic-looking that, paradoxically, you can’t believe a moment of it. And although it was directed by Jon Favreau, who previously shepherded a wild menagerie in his recent remake of The Jungle Book, it has none of the imagination that made that movie more than just a high-tech retread.

And then there’s David Ehrlich at indieWire:

… [T]he animation is just bland in a way that saps the characters of their personalities. Scar used to be a Shakespearian villain brimming with catty rage and closeted frustration; now, he’s just a lion who sounds like Chiwetel Ejiofor. Simba used to be a sleek upstart whose regal heritage was tempered by youthful insecurity; now he’s just a lion who sounds like Donald Glover. Watching them come to blows against a realistic-but-dull background suggests that Favreau was so busy trying to figure out if he could, that he never stopped to consider if he should.

On a conceptual level, “The Lion King” betrays the power of the hand-drawn artwork that once put the wonder into Disney animation from its earliest features. Favreau’s movie fails to grapple with how the unreality of the studio’s lush 2D artwork unlocked kids’ imagination and made it so much fun to suspend disbelief; the digital wizardry denies our minds the permission they need to dream. Julie Taymor’s award-winning Broadway adaptation is so transportive because it celebrates its artifice, not in spite of it.

Sean Burns at WBUR writes,

Even the vocal performances are strangely subdued, as if everyone were trying to keep from sounding too much like they’re in a cartoon. The wild oranges and purples from the original film are replaced by gloomy shades of beige. (I could be heard loudly complaining in the lobby afterwards that at the climax you’ve got two beige cats fighting in front of an oatmeal rock with some brown grass on the ground.) Every aesthetic choice here has been made to tone down the material, making it less vivid, less expressive, less animated.

I didn’t go looking for four harmonious complaints. I just read the first four reviews that I could find by critics I regularly consult.