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The Lion King Scar stands with his hyena army under dark clouds

Can you feel the hype tonight? With just a week to go until general audiences can partake in the Circle of Life for themselves, The Lion King is revving its promotional engines and getting ready to stoke the fires of fandom into a feeding frenzy.

At least, that’s what it looks like from the marketing aspect of things, as the Disney film is just now being evaluated by industry critics, and early word isn’t good. In fact, it’s downright Rotten.

With only 89 reviews totaled up as of this printing, The Lion King is currently at a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, falling just below the 60% threshold to be known as a Fresh film. This comes from 52 Fresh reviews and 38 Rotten rankings, with the critical consensus basically panning the film for being more of a visual masterpiece than one of story.

It’s a far cry from the 1994 original’s Tomatometer reading of 93%, coming from 127 reviews, but there’s still time for The Lion King’s numbers to rise though. Some critics have yet to take their place on the path unwinding to the film’s proper release date.

As it stands though, Disney’s live-action films are having a bit of a rough go with critics, as live-action predecessors, Dumbo and Aladdin, have ranked in at respective 46% and 57% ratings among the critical community.

Review scores are one thing though, as the final say on whether or not The Lion King is a success or a failure will be in how well the film reflects on Disney’s bank book. Though looking at those previous live-action efforts from this year, it looks like that might just be where the film succeeds in the long run.

Dumbo brought in around $352 million worldwide on a $170 million production budget, while Aladdin is still raking in cash with its current total of $925.3 million worldwide on a $183 million budget. For reference, The Lion King’s estimated budget has been reported as $250 million, which definitely puts more pressure on director Jon Favreau’s live-action reimagining of the 1994 Disney classic.

Even looking at Jon Favreau’s previous reworking of the studio’s legendary IP The Jungle Book, that film had both a $175 million budget and a 95% rating from 314 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Overall, the hills that The Lion King has to climb are steeper this time out, and one of them already looks like it’s far from being overcome. But box office is king in the Hollywood pride, and so far Disney’s remake experiments seem to be paying off with better margins when it comes to more modern stories being retold.

With Aladdin almost at the $1 billion mark and Beauty and The Beast rising in somewhat record setting time to the $1.3 billion level, it would be a safe assumption that despite critical disapproval, The Lion King is still about to have a tremendous moment in the sun. In fact, if one were to listen carefully, they’d probably hear Disney executives singing “Hakuna Matata” at about this very moment, and straight on until next weekend.

We’ll see if that optimism holds true, when The Lion King hits theaters in early showings next Thursday.

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