The Lion King

Posted by Abbie on August 8, 2019 under In Theatres Now

I really, really hope Jon Favreau never turns out to be a sexual harasser. Because, damn, can that guy create cinematic childhood joy. Disney has never been one of my favourite studios. A fair few of their animated movies (generally ones that involve talking animals) remind me of being a kid and make me feel better when I’m sick and stuck in bed but, other than that, I’m kind of lukewarm on the whole thing. I’m definitely not one of those ‘Disney People’. You know who I mean. So it’s fair to say that when it comes to how much I would enjoy the Lion King remake, despite Scar’s song advising me otherwise, I was not prepared.

Compared to Favreau’s take on The Jungle Book, which left me dissatisfied in a way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, The Lion King delivers in a big way. The almost shot-for-shot and line-for-line rendition speaks to the genius of the original. In that respect, there wasn’t much that could have been improved upon (with a few very notable and problematic exceptions, which were addressed). With the writing and storyboard in the bag all that was missing was voice talent and cinematography, both of which are unrelenting in their exquisiteness.  I mean, can you get a better voice for Nala than Beyonce? No. No you cannot. Likewise, Seth Rogan as Pumbaa – Seth Rogan was born to voice a gassy but lovable warthog. But the top prize has to go to Chiwetel Ejiofor. His voice takes Scar from campish evil rogue that you actually would kind of like to hang out with to truly terrifying villain, especially considering the target demographic for this movie. Scar’s voice is matched by an equally dangerous appearance that makes no compromises in the sinister department. This brings me to the actual look and feel of the film. While the all of the characters are obviously CGI, they don’t look it. At all. I cannot imagine the number of hours that must have been spent filming wild animals in order to create this level of photorealism.

The story is a familiar one, but this rendition takes a little more time to offer a bit of backstory about Scar and Mufasa’s childhood rivalry that the original left out. Other details are brought up to date and the abrasive heteronormativity of most Disney fare is tempered a bit. The “dress in drag and do the hula” line and scene have been conspicuously replaced and, when confronted with the prospect of a childhood friendship destined to become a romantic relationship baby Simba doesn’t just say “I can’t marry her – she’s my friend,” but “I should be able to marry whoever I want”. Big difference there. Certainly not a grand gesture, but hopefully enough for an alienated kid to feel at least a little bit seen. In this same way, the Lion King reboot has a tone that indicates how children have changed since the 1990’s. In some ways the cotton wool has been unwrapped from childhood. Kids are allowed to be more aware of the real world than they were a few decades ago. While the movie makes expert use of a few moments of comic relief, the heavy issues of death, anger, shame and violence are dealt with in very realistic ways.

Of all of the Disney remakes thus far, The Lion King is by far my favourite. I have high hopes for The Little Mermaid and Lady and the Tramp, but this one will be hard to beat. Who knows, maybe I shall become one of those Disney People.

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