Arguably the biggest film of the summer, and indubitably the most popular Disney live-action remake, has finally roared to the silver screen in “The Lion King.”
Inspired by the Shakespearean tragedy, “Hamlet,” the film centers around King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and the birth of his newborn son, Simba (JD McCrary), who will one day be the ruler of the Pride Lands like his father.
During an awkward encounter with his evil uncle, Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Simba boasts how Scar is going to have to take orders from him one day. This becomes the last straw for the scheming brother of Mufasa, who believes the Pride Land kingdom should be his.
Scar tells a naive Simba about the elephant graveyard — a location outside of the light in the shadows. Scar knows Simba’s curiosity will lead him here, where the hyenas will surround him and eliminate him from being heir to the throne.
Of course, the hyenas are as dumb as they look, and they let Simba get away. A fuming Scar decides he’ll settle this himself. During a planned stampede, after Mufasa saves Simba from danger, Scar murders his brother and lets him fall to his death.
Scar blames Simba for Mufasa’s death, and tells him to run away and never return. The hyenas are then ordered to take care of Simba for good, and well, we’ve seen this story before.
With Mufasa and Simba out of the picture, Scar proceeds to take his self-righteous place as king of the Pride Lands. Meanwhile, a once distraught Simba grows into adulthood (Donald Glover) living his life via “hakuna matata” with his best pals, Timon and Pumba (Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen).
As Scar runs the Pride Lands to the ground, Simba inevitably will be left with a choice. Will he continue to run away from his past, or will he reconnect and join his childhood friend, Nala (Beyonce), in avenging his father’s death and claim his destiny?
You don’t have to be in your comfy theater seat long to realize what a visual spectacle “The Lion King” is. Of all the Disney live-action remakes, this one will stand apart with its stunning special effects and remarkable realism of the various animals.
Ironically, the film’s greatest strength is its greatest weakness. The heart and emotion of the characters that made the animated film such a masterpiece, is noticeably missing here.
This isn’t to say all characters are amiss, though. The film is fairly dark and broody until Timon and Pumba show up to steal the show. They’ll be crowd favorites that will have you laughing like hyenas with every line out of their obnoxious and sarcastic mouths.
Chiwetel Ejiofor also deserves praise for his portrayal of Scar. From the first scene to the last, every haunting word that comes out of the evil lion’s mouth is profoundly immoral with devastating intentions.
The most anticipating aspect of these live-action remakes is the joy in comparing them to their classic originals. Surprisingly, “The Lion King” is almost a carbon copy of the animated film it originates from. Some fans will love this, while others, like myself, will be left wanting more.
Still, the upbeat of songs will bring back a tasteful nostalgia, and the film, while bleak, has enough of a roar to make “The Lion King” a “mane” attraction for fans of all ages.