Movies

‘The Lion King’ review: Almost coming full circle

A still from ‘The Lion King’   | Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Be it traditional animation or contemporary photorealistic digital/computer animation, what has worked for The Lion King is the “humanification” of animals. I am deliberately not using the word humanising here because, as we are well aware, it’s the animals who are at most times more humane than the brutes that the human race has become.

Humanification is to imply that what transpires on screen transcends the animal kingdom; it is what one associates with the world of women and men. Hence something we can identify with closely. There is a familiarity to the relationships, the clear divisions between the good and the bad individuals, the situations and emotions, with each character personifying a feeling — love and pride (Mufasa); ambition, jealousy, treachery and violence (Scar); loyalty, care and concern (Timon, Pumbaa and Zazu); loss, grief and the denial of it; the overwhelming guilt, its psychological ramifications and the battle in coming to terms with it (Simba).

The Lion King
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Starring: Voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones, Beyonce Knowles-Carter (English)
  • Voices of SRK, Aryan Khan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Sanjay Mishra, Aasrani, Shreyas Talpade, Shernaz Patel, Achint Kaur (Hindi)
  • Run time: 118 minutes
  • Storyline: The crown prince Simba’s jealous uncle Scar kills his father, King Musafa. Burdened with the misplaced guilt of being the reason for his killing, Simba goes into exile in the company of Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and the warthog. Will he avenge his father’s death?

The crown prince Simba’s jealous uncle Scar kills his father, King Musafa. Burdened with the misplaced guilt of being the reason for his killing, Simba goes into exile in the company of Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and the warthog. But can the son of the king not be a king himself? He has to return to and reclaim his kingdom of Gaurav Bhoomi.

It’s the angst of the wronged brother Scar — about being a commoner and life having been unfair to him — that has dramatic potential before lapsing into the cliched bad man portrayal. And, towering over everything else in the film is the father-son relationship. Simba’s hero-worship of his dad Mufasa and their mutual love gives the film its emotional tug but the idea of the ruler and his successor also makes it a little antediluvian. The film does try to play down royalty by positing the king as a protector, the one who serves and gives than owns and takes. The country can’t belong to one person.

The 2019 version pretty much sticks to everything from the original. However, a larger reinterpretation of the lineage-inheritance trope (why does the son of a king have to take over from him?) would have made it a little less out of joint in these times.

However, having said that, it’s also a trifle ironic that in India the most looked forward to thing about the film’s Hindi version has been the fact it’s Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan who has voiced Simba. Does the son of Bollywood’s ‘Badshah’ have it in him has been the moot question. Well, the voice does have gravitas, flexibility and an ability to articulate trauma. In fact the film hinges on the aural more than the visual magic.

The animation at large makes it seem as though one is on a virtual safari in to the jungle, but the digital animal visages themselves remain a tad flat, two-dimensional, not half as vivid and layered as those in the original. It’s the soundtrack and the star voices — both in the English and the Hindi versions — that bring things alive, specially in some throwaway light moments, like a affianced-betrothed wordplay or a hornbill vs woodpecker debate.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 6:22:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/the-lion-king-review/article28516835.ece

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