My biggest question when I heard about this remake of Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ was “what did they need to make a new version of this film for?” I understand many of Disney’s live-action remakes of their classic animated films. There was a definite need to revisit the stories of the Disney princess, most especially, to better suit the evolving discussion on the empowering of women and updating some of the values that can be found in the classic cartoons, who are all very much a product of their time.
But ‘The Lion King,’ with all its shades of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and its expanded version that is found in the stage musical, which has toured around the world (including the Philippines), there doesn’t seem to be a need for a restructuring. In present day politics, the very nature of monarchical system of government is deeply entrenched into the story, and that’s the most problematic part of the story.
How would a 2019 remake of ‘The Lion King’ skirt around this idea of authority and rulership through inheritance?
What makes Jon Favreau’s ‘The Lion King’ work is how it makes full use of its “live-action” realism to put into focus the relationship of everything to each other in this lush and vibrant world. It’s the Circle of Life, really, as Favreau carefully details every animal, plant, weather phenomenon, body of water, and anything else that fits into the frame and their marvelous connection with each other.
While the original animated feature focused on Simba and his personal struggle and internal conflict of grief and guilt, Favreau’s 2019 remake puts the focus on what Simba has left behind; the duty that he has abandoned. There is care in emphasizing the responsibilities of the ruler: to maintain the balance of life so that the Pride Lands would prosper. ‘The Lion King’ no longer becomes just this story of a young man who must find it within himself to take back the mantle of king, but it now becomes a testament to what a leader must do, which is to protect the land that they have been entrusted.
While not missing any of the narrative beats of the original, this remake heightens the importance of the duties of a leader. Scar is not just a jealous brother with a hunger for power; he is indulgent and greedy that his rule tears the land apart and makes it barren.
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The popular song ‘Hakuna Matata’ is reimagined as dereliction of duty. This version of ‘The Lion King’ aims to undermine the catchy hook and paints the song as a dangerous mindset in the times of strife and oppression. In the new ‘The Lion King,’ apathy is an enemy and resistance is an imperative that we must all take if we are to save our world.
I was skeptical, coming in, thinking that there was no way in which this film could speak to this day and age but I was so very wrong. Amazing voice acting from Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Pumbaa and Timon, and Florence Kasumba as Shenzi and the rest brings to life that magic and the renewed vision of this story.
One of the elements that has made ‘The Lion King’ so wonderful was its music and this has been given great new breadth by producer Pharrell Williams, who injects new energy into the songs, especially into the interpretation of Scar’s song ‘Be Prepared’ and the few South African chants that were carried over from the Broadway musical version.
On 3D IMAX, ‘The Lion King’ is a majestic journey into the jungles of Africa, a powerful story that truly makes relevant jabs at our world today and the need to resist the oppressive authoritative forces that seeks to destroy the world of its resources. It is a call for leaders to battle through whatever demons that hold them back to bring balance back into the world. And it does all this with its standard Disney magic that’s filled with laughter, gorgeous visuals, and a heavy serving of heart.
'The Lion King' opens in cinemas Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Find showtimes for 'The Lion King' and book your tickets in advance today!