Movie Review: The Lion King

Senses Syahirah Mokhtazar 18-Jul-2019

The opening scene for Disney’s remake of The Lion King feels almost like a nature documentary as the enormous blood orange sun rises on Africa appears impressively photorealistic.

Instantly, when you hear the iconic “naaaants ingonyama bagithi baba’ goosebumps are felt as it trades heavily on the nostalgia and the love for the original film which was released in 1994.

All the animals flock to the Pride Rock to catch a glimpse of newborn Simba, the son of Mufasa and Sarabi. The emotions tied to the animated classic are so strong that when the scene of Simba being introduced to the animal kingdom takes place, you can’t help but smile but also be in awe with the precision of detail in every instance.

It’s hard not to notice the authenticity as computer-generated herds of elephants, zebras make their way towards Pride Rock where King Mufasa awaits. Sure, it’s all CGI, but the live-action remake actually feels more life-like.

All this majestic-ness enthralls viewers into this animal kingdom we fell in love with 25 years ago.

Most of the storyline from the original 1994 movie remains intact with a few expansions here and there but it does include two new songs called ‘Spirit’ by Beyonce and ‘Never Too Late’ by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Let’s take a look at its cast before anything else. Donald Glover voices Simba, while Beyonce voices Nala. Sarabi, Simba’s mother is played by Alfre Woodard, and other key characters like Scar is voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor. We see Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner voice Pumbaa and Timon respectively. The only actor to reprise his role in the movie is James Earl Jones as Mufasa (seriously, who else better to play Mufasa than this guy?).

After the majestic scene where all animals gather to show respect for Simba, the movie sets off to a rivalry theme with the first words coming from Mufasa’s brother Scar, as he speaks to a mouse about how “Life’s not fair.”

Since the film still clings onto the original storyline, we pretty much know how the story flows. Eventually Mufasa dies when trying to save Simba from a stampede.

Young curious cub Simba was led to believe by his beloved uncle Scar that he was the cause of his father’s death and so he ran away. This is where he befriended meerkat Timon and warthog Pumbaa who brings him to another place to live.

Hakuna Matata (it means ‘no worries’) is the phrase Simba lives by as he grows up raised by Timon and Pumbaa, before Nala comes to find him.  She begs for his return home to take his rightful place as King of the Pride Lands, which is now ruled by Scar.

A comparison between the original and the new ‘The Lion King’ will have you notice that the new film runs longer than the original. This is because the filmmakers have used the extra time to expand its plot and give more screen time for characters like Sarabi, Nala as well as the vicious hyenas.

This film follows footsteps of other recently released live-action remakes like Aladdin which offers pretty much nothing new other than nostalgia and dazzling visuals, but overall the filmmakers did an admirable job.

Although this film is darker than the original, it’s nice that the filmmaker Jon Favreau (the actor who played Happy Hogan in Ironman) balances it out with some humour thanks to Timon and Pumbaa whose hysterical antics will make you laugh your head off.

A re-visit to this classic tale is harmless, plus it may leave a lasting impression to the newer generation as it did to those who grew up watching the original film. As always, watching Disney take an animated feature to make it more real is breathtaking.