The US Library of Congress dubbed the original as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. This combination of the Bard’s Hamlet and Richard III is out to renew its box office tryst with its audience – legion, global and with Aladdin as its prelude at the marketplace, the film maker Jon Favreau is just rubbing at the magic lamps along with the likes of Simba, Nala, Mufasa, Sarabi and Nala.
To those who have come in late: Mufasa (James Earl Jones) with his Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) rule over Pride Lands of Africa from Pride Rock. Simba (JD McCrary) their new born is introduced to all animals in attendance by Rafiki (John Kani) – the wise mandrill, the kingdom’s shaman and advisor. Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is unhappy and plots Mufasa’s death with a clan of hyenas.
Scar kills Mufasa, blames the young Simba and warns him to never return. His minions try to kill Simba but fail. Scar is informed to the contrary. Simba is rescued by Pumba (Seth Rogen) a common warthog and Timon (Billy Eichner) a meerkat. Now a grown-up Simba (Donald Glover) runs into his childhood friend Nala (Beyoncé Knowles-Carter) and is informed about the tragic state of affairs back home. The rest of the story is all about whether Simba embraces his destiny and deliver Pride Lands from evil.
The story was told once too often. The references too – Hamlet – Simba seeking revenge on the uncle who murdered the King for power and Richard III – the incapable Scar wanting the throne more than the capable Mufasa. There is nothing much for director to recreate. What he does best is trust his CGI team to create realistic animals and the environment. It is all about the sharp contrast ratio, the deeper shadows, minute details and brighter lights.
The emphasis is on realism. Aladdin too had the same problem. Jasmine’s character suffered in Aladdin as does Mufasa’s here. Jon Favreau could have done wonders had he shown Mufasa’s legacy just to show the huge expectations on Simba’s shoulders. It would be refreshing for the audience who missed the 1994 version. It sensitises children to the concept of togetherness. Donald Glover does his best. It is always pleasant to hear Beyoncé. A special mention to Hans Zimmer – the man behind the music.
In times when we fight against one another for trivial matters like the food we eat, Mufasa stresses on the Circle of Life. He says: “Everyone must follow the Cycle of Life”. So true. For those who have already seen the 1994 edition, relive this. The animals teach us a lot. Another reference to something that kids in India hear a lot – Panchatantra.
The only drawback is that it is only a revamp of the original. Most of us have already seen the ‘Circle of Life’ and know what to expect. This will always be compared to the original. The new addition, a new number – ‘Spirit’ by Beyoncé is pleasant to the ears. Make no mistake, this is the best looking of the recent live-action remakes. However, it looks like we have reached an overkill of revamps. Favreau tasted success with Jungle Book. Only time will tell about Lion King’s. One never knows, he could end up having the last laugh. There is still something in it for the kids to learn – hakuna matata – no worries.