Chris' Review of The Lion King
The Lion King(1994)
Out of all the animated features that the Walt Disney Company has produced, the film that seems to be the most celebrated nowadays is coincidentally the one that made the most money. That film being their 32nd full-length animated feature, The Lion King (1994). Now the question that I'm sure almost everybody is going to want me to answer is this. Do I think that the hype surrounding this film is well deserved? While I can certainly say that The Lion King is still a good movie, I honestly think that there are better Disney films out there than this one. I know I'm shocking most of America with the comment I just made, so why do I think that The Lion King is not the best Disney picture like everyone else seems to think that it is? We'll delve deeper into that later, but first, let's look at the main plot.
Mufasa (James Earl Jones), the ruler of all animals in Africa, and his wife Sarabi have given birth to a young lion cub named Simba. His birth is celebrated of course with him being presented to the other animals of the kingdom by a loyal baboon. Mufasa's brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) is jealous that Simba will succeed Mufasa as king and hatches a plan with the hyenas to kill them off and take the throne for himself. After Mufasa is killed in a stampede, Scar places the blame on Simba for his father's death and orders him to get out of the kingdom forever.
Simba almost dies trying to evade his home, but is saved by a meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa. Timon and Pumbaa believe that it's okay to stay away from your troubles, and Simba decides to adapt to their laid-back way of life and never go back home. But then, his childhood friend Nala finds Simba and tells him that things are bad back at home with Scar and his hyenas taking over the land and they need him to return and know that he's alive. Given that he thought that he killed his own father, Simba must decide whether or not to challenge his uncle for the throne.
I think the lesson one is supposed to obtain from this story is to learn from your past mistakes. This is also where one of the main problems of the movie resides since this particular message wasn't well delivered. Doug Walker, a popular Internet video film critic, made a good point when he said that this film didn't teach him to learn from past mistakes, but to tell people that he didn't do any mistakes. For that matter, I thought the climax really was the weakest part of the film. Between how unnecessarily confusing the content of the dialogue between Scar and Simba is, the distractingly silly moments with the comic relief and the underlying pop culture references ("They call me Mr. Pig!"), and the battle between Simba and Scar in slow motion, the climax does kind of fall flat in contrast with the earlier parts of the film.
Another big issue I have with The Lion King is that I felt it didn't explain enough regarding why the hyenas are bad news to the kingdom. Sure, the movie tells us that they wipe the land clean of its grass, water, animals and other resources under the rule of Scar. However, we are given no explanations regarding why the hyenas are such bad creatures as the lions are claiming that they are. For that matter, the film also didn't tell us what made Mufasa and Scar rivals to begin with. I know it's nitpicking, but when a film lacks crucial story details like that, I can't help but penalize it for forgetting to explain more.
The animation in The Lion King is spectacular, no doubt about it. Everyone's gone on about how the stampede sequence in particular is outstanding to watch on the big screen and their praise is certainly understandable. The Lion King is a visually impressive film to watch mainly because of the epic scale and depth of the African environments. With the exception of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" which is a major distraction to the film's tone, the songs by Elton John and Tim Rice are pretty solid. "Circle of Life" is the standout song in my opinion and serves as a worthy introduction to a film of this grandness and spectacle. Hans Zimmer's orchestral score is another big standout for me in regards to the film's music, since it serves as a fitting contrast to the large and absorbing images being shown on screen.
The voice-over work that stood out the most from the all-star vocal cast was James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons. James Earl Jones incorporates the right amount of authority, humbleness, and class into his performance as Simba's dad Mufasa as we should expect for a role such as this from such a distinguished actor. Even though he's only present for half the length of the film, I thought Mufasa was one cool father figure. He felt like a real dad in both his playfulness with Simba as well as his seriousness with him about how he isn't as fearless as Simba thinks he is. There's a scene between Simba and Mufasa in which he basically states this which is very well handled and very well done.
Very little else can be said about The Lion King that everyone else hasn't already said except that there's a reason why The Lion King is an animated feature that pleases almost everybody. It has comedy, drama, music, and a little bit of something for everybody. As long as movies are a form of entertainment that unifies us all, then a film with something for all of us isn't anything to complain about, is it?