Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Lion King

The film is the Lion King first released in 1994 with a budget of $45 million and box office gross of just under $1 billion. The success of the Lion King was achieved from the combination of a story which emotionally affected the audience of all ages and its music which included The Circle of Life and Can you feel my Love Tonight and the humorous and catchy Hakcuna Matata -compositions by Elton John and Tim Rice. The sound track achieved fourth position and the highest ever sales for an animated film. The film was nominated for several awards, some it won again unusual for an animation project and has entered several best film lists.

The story of the film is reputed to have echoes of Moses and his son and Hamlet although in my view it stands alone on its merit and again features a rites of passage experience this time between the heir to the throne who is anxious to prove himself to be as brave and adventurous as his father who commands great respect from all the animals in their valley having established a natural order which keeps the savaging hyenas to their own territory. The film skates over what the natural order is with the implication that the animals do not fight, kill and eat each other, apart from the hyenas.
The film opens with the presentation of Simba as the heir to everyone which is to the horror of the King’s younger brother Scar who realises that the opportunity for him to come to power has been reduced and sets his sights on removing the young threat at the earliest opportunity.

The young lion is gradually prepared for his role one day by his father assisted by Rafiki a wise old Mandril who acts as a Regent adviser protector and on behalf of the King present the Lion Cub to his future people. While touring the lands controlled by the Pride of Lions Simba is warned by his father not to enter one area which understandably arouses his curiosity and learning of the interest Scar, voice of Jeremy Irons, fuels the situation by saying it is the burial ground of the Elephants and implying that the boy’s father is being unreasonable. Simba has a young female friend Nala who he persuades to go adventuring while eluding the watchful eye of Rafiki. At the Elephant grounds they encounter a trio of hyenas one of whom is the voice of Whoopi Goldberg who contemplate and unexpected banquet by the duo are rescued by the King and sent home in disgrace. The King then attempts to explain to his son that his special position brings with it responsibilities.

Thwarted Scar creates a new plan which involves creating a stampede of large animas being chased by hyenas having encouraged Simba to again break restrictions on his movements. Appreciating that his son is at great risk his father once more goes to the rescue and is about to escape the stampede himself by climbing rocks to safety when instead of answering his appeal for help his brother attacks causing the King to fall to his death. He then lets Simba believe that his behaviour caused the death of his father and that he will have no one’s respect. The young lion goes off alone, ashamed, into self imposed banishment from his family and position.

This means that Scar becomes the lawful monarch who then uses the hyenas to reinforce his power thus bringing fear and desolation to the Pride Lands enslaving everyone else.

When Simba becomes ill he is cared for by a Merekat, since made popular by an Insurance company and a warthog and teach him their philosophy of life which is no worries, with the implication of no responsibilities and have as much fun as is possible.

Years pass and Simba has to rescue his two friends from a lioness who turns out to be Nala who unaware who he is at first tells of what has happened and the nightmarish regime created by Scar. Unable to explain his sense of guilt at causing the death of his father, Simba disappoints Nala by refusing to return home and take his rightful place and rescue his people. She leaves heartbroken and discloses the news of his survival to Rafiki who goes in search of the legitimate King. Rafiki summons the ghost of the father who reminds of his destiny which has the effect of persuading Simba to return with his friends to take back the lands and the free the people (animals).

In the climax to the film Scar reveals his treachery after failing to defeat Simba who now has the appearance and strength of his father and is forced to admit the truth to the other lions. Scar pleads in mitigation that it was the hyenas that were behind what happened and Simba decides to banish the murderer. Scar refuses and attacks Simba who successfully fends off the attack with the consequence that it is Scar who falls off the rock where he is attacked and killed by the hyenas who he has just betrayed. They are driven out and over time the land is restored to is former state with Simba the established King and his son by Nala presented by Rafiki as the new heir. The circle of life continues.

Apart from the improved perspective the out of screen incidents to reinforce the 3D medium are limited not to distract from the main work which at one level is a successful reissuing of a very successful film to a new generation. There is however one moment to be mentioned when early on a bird flies over ones shoulder into the screen. This is magical.

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