The story of Simba returns to screens courtesy of director Jon Favreau.
The 2010s have Thanos, the 2000s had Heath Ledger’s The Joker, and the nineties? Well, the nineties had Scar.
Looking back over iconic movie villains, there are plenty of big bad wolves which come to mind. We’ve seen some amazing antagonists over the decades, but actually, 1994’s The Lion King still boasts one of the most memorable. Of course, that’s because the film itself is so universally adored. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t find something to admire in Disney’s seminal classic.
It reinforced that animated films could be bright, colourful, fun, but also important. Everyone will remember the wonderful songs which radiate throughout, but it also touches upon deeper themes of loss and renewal. The message which sweeps the film is timeless, and future generations will continue to learn and find comfort in it. To this day, it remains a very empowering piece of work and one of Disney’s undeniably career highs. So, why is it also providing one of their biggest lows?
The story of The Lion King
Of course, the film was heavily influenced by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is why the story will have felt so familiar for audiences back in 1994.
It tells the story of Simba, whose father is killed by his brother Scar so he can steal control of the kingdom. Tricked into feeling responsible, Simba flees, only to later return and challenge Scar as the rightful heir of the throne. This tale has been reworked throughout narrative history, and we’ve seen it in cinema many times.
The Lion King, however, packages it differently. It’s so accessible, but fortunately, it doesn’t feel any less emotional. There are scenes in the 1994 version which are heartbreaking to witness from any age, and admittedly, Disney has a strong history of dealing with the subject of death; look no further than 1942’s Bambi.
You could call it a kids movie, but a family movie feels far more fitting to describe it. Now, families have been invited to bask in the photorealistic CGI remake, which appears more hollow than hearty.
Does Scar die in The Lion King?
Essentially, Jon Favreau’s 2019 revision is gorgeous to look at it, but in the end, it all feels a bit too pointless. It’s hard to imagine any kid walking out of the film saying they liked it more than the original; of course, this is far from fact, but the 1994 version just feels so much more impactful.
Again, the film doesn’t shy away from deeper themes, as the story has kept true to the original. However, because this is a family blockbuster, a number of hard-hitting moments take place off-screen again. We see Mufasa fall, but we don’t see the impact; why? Because we don’t need to. We can be shown two of three images and fill in the blanks.
Again, we can call upon the example of Scar, who is left explaining himself to a horde of betrayed and ravenous hyenas in the last act. We see shadows of the ensuing fight, but we don’t need to see the grisly details. Yet, in this case, it does cause many to wonder if Scar actually died.
The answer is yes, he did. It’s a little easier to show Mufasa dead and not the other because an image of Scar’s corpse after the hyena’s feast would surely have boosted a comfortable PG to a 12A, which would be more than enough to deter some sceptical parents. So although Simba was sure not to bring about Scar’s demise, he was destined to have no trouble from his evil uncle nonetheless. It’s the Disney way.
What next for Disney?
Let’s be honest. This year’s The Lion King is box-office gold.
It’s proven to be the most divisive Disney remake yet, arguably because it feels far more unnecessary than the others. Yet, that’s not going to stop it continuing to dominate the multiplex. Financially, Disney has nothing to worry about with their latest venture, but in terms of reception, audiences are starting to grow a little tired of the company’s attitude to recycling product.
This means that future exercises are going to be met with far more apprehension, meaning that the forthcoming The Little Mermaid project is going to have to be something special – like, really special.
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