The Lion King
Returning to the Circle of Life
By Casey Lee
It hasn't been the best year for the live action adaptations of Disney. While Dumbo fell flat from expanding its source material, Aladdin had to empower some of its characters to suit the times. So if Disney's experiments with their live action adaptations hasn't been successful thus far, how else should they retell their stories? The Lion King might provide its answer.
In the fertile land of Pride Rock where animals are ruled by the lion Mufasa, his kingship will be passed down to his newborn son Simba. Meanwhile, Simba's devious uncle, Scar, who is passed over as next in line thanks to Simba's birth, plots to usurp not only the throne from his noble brother, but also to end the line of succession in one fell swoop. With some subtle manipulation and recruiting the hungry hyenas to provoke a stampede of wild beasts, Scar frames Simba for Mufasa's death and advises the young prince to leave Pride Rock for a crime he did not commit. As Simba exiles himself and is saved by a warthog and a meerkat, Simba embraces their carefree philosophy to live a new life away from his traumatised past. Back in Pride Rock, Scar rules it to ruin, until there's little left to feed the ever hungry pack of hyenas and the remaining lions.
For those who already know the story, Jon Favreau's adaptation doesn't bring anything new to the table aside from the magnificent new coat of paint that is the innovation of the photo-realistic technology used since The Jungle Book. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with this approach, especially since it is working on solid narrative and character foundations. The new rendering of the hand-drawn frames still manages to deliver the same and rather impactful emotional beats from Scar's betrayal, to the completion of Simba's redemption arc. A more noticeable upgrade is the new voices brought to the familiar characters from a whole new cast. While the Afrocentric cast lends some authenticity given the origins of the characters, it also benefits from distinct personalities and voices such as Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as the new Timon and Pumba.
After getting two strikes in its year of live-action remakes, Disney may have finally scarped a hit by playing it the safest. Besides, there's nothing wrong with retelling a story if it makes one want to re-experience hakuna matata from 1994.