Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Anthropomorphism of animals—giving them human minds, emotions and reasoning / In what ways does this sometimes confuse children, and even some adults?
Importance of the young growing in maturing, taking responsibility for what needs to be done, and being brave
A good king searches for what he can give to others
Kings of the Bible—good and bad
Importance of positive friendships
The Devil as a lion
Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer
Is Satan A REAL PERSON that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
Dealing with grief
In the film, Timon believes that life is not a circle, but rather a meaningless straight line until you die. In reality, it is neither.
What is DEATH? and WHY does it exist? Answers
What is THE MEANING OF LIFE? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him. They principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
LIONS of the Bible
ANIMALS of the Bible
What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer
Donald Glover … Simba (voice)
Seth Rogen … Pumbaa (voice)
James Earl Jones … Mufasa, father of Simba and the King of the Pride Lands (voice)
Chiwetel Ejiofor … Scar, brother of Mufasa (voice)
Alfre Woodard … Sarabi, the Queen of the Pride Lands, Mufasa’s mate, and Simba’s mother (voice)
John Kani … Rafiki, a mandrill (voice)
Keegan-Michael Key … Kamari, a spotted hyena (voice)
Beyoncé … Nala, Simba’s childhood best friend (voice)
John Oliver … Zazu, a red-billed hornbill (voice)
Billy Eichner … Timon, a meerkat (voice)
Amy Sedaris … Elephant shrew (voice)
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Walt Disney Pictures
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|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
“Long live the king!”
Arguably the most anticipated film of the year, the new version of “The Lion King” has huge pawprints to fill. Generations of children on many continents have grown up loving the animated version released 25 years ago, due to its family themes, heart-rending soundtrack and lessons about coming of age. I remember it fondly as the first or second film I saw in a cinema, and then over and over on video. How could anything top the classic? How could a modern depiction not ruin it in some way? But somehow, the 2019 version succeeds.
The storyline remains essentially the same in this year’s remake. The detail is merely fleshed out a little more with photorealistic computer animation. One feels as though they are viewing an old home movie and our childhood memories of Simba’s story; what we had remembered now seems basic compared to the vivid details we take in when we can view the same event through adult eyes.
As in the original, the storyline begins with the celebrated birth of young Simba (Donald Glover), the lion prince of the Pridelands. His noble father Mufasa (still voiced by James Earl Jones) and mother Sarabi provide a stable loving home to their only son, but proud Simba ‘just can’t wait to be king.’
Unfortunately, his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has grown bitter and only pretends to offer caring advice for the cub who stole his chance at being king. When Simba in his youthful enthusiasm explores the boundaries of his father’s territory, Scar seizes his opportunity to orchestrate such a devastating tragedy that it will leave Simba riddled with guilt and grief, to “Run away, Simba, and never return.” How will Simba recover from this severance from all his loved ones? Can he put his past behind him and build a new life as a worry-free adult? Will the Pridelands be okay without him?
Frankly, there are few concerns with the film, apart from what was already seen in the 1994 animation, so I’ll keep this brief.
The main objection anyone may have is that the film is too loud and scary for young children, with its chases, snarls, fights, murder attempts, animal carcasses and threatening moments. One time a character even sits over an animal eating its meat, with his chin red with blood while he speaks. Some truly awful things do happen. Yet, it does not seem overdone or gratuitous. Parents know their children and how much exposure they have had to violence in nature, so I leave it to parents’ discretion as to whether this will trouble your children. But please note that the tragic losses may also trouble adults, with several haunting cries for help or comfort from a baby creature.
A second difficulty is in relation to philosophies suggested, ranging from “Life is meaningless” to “Take your place in the circle of life.” These will be discussed later, but rest assured that there are also almost a dozen great quotes which match up with biblical principles. For example, “Everyone is a somebody. Even a nobody.”
Insults are few and far between, and we’re not sure whether we heard one “My G*d…” along with a handful of st*pids and ins*ne, and one “f*rted.”
Despite all characters being completely unclothed, there’s no need to worry about nudity or sexual references causing issues for your children, because all characters are animals, and, as such, this is their natural state. No fuss is made of private areas either. (But while we’re on the topic of these animals, it may be worth speaking with children about whether animals can really think, feel and converse like people do.)
Some critics have complained that there is little creativity or difference from the original version. But while most of the script is word for word the same as the dialog from 1994, a new side to each group of characters is subtly explored. For example, we hear slightly longer conversations between Scar and each of his enemies. Instead of Timon having most of the spotlight for comic relief, this time Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) steals it. And one hyena displays strong personality and a dislike for a particular lioness.
We also spend more time with the other animals in the forest and near Pride Rock, which helps to emphasize the ‘delicate balance’ that every living creature is part of, from the smallest mouse or dung beetle to the tallest giraffe. I appreciate this attention to Creation’s design and details, and our responsibility to steward it well.
The animation is truly impressive. Apparently, no living creature ever appears on screen, as they are all computerized somehow. Despite this amazing technology, some viewers have said that characters’ eyes seem less real or emotional than in the 1994 version, which I suspect is just because the size of eyes cannot be exaggerated like in a cartoon. In fact, I think it adds a realistic coldness to Scar that perhaps suits the story better than ever. The screenplay rarely feels fake or clunky. The photorealistic imaging simply means, as my mother said, “They just look like real animals.” The only awkwardly done moment my artist eye could spot is when a group of lionesses stand looking in the same direction, and they seem to be identical to one another.
The audio is also amazing, but heart-wrenching at times, such as when cubs are chased by hyenas, or a baby animal cries for help or pines for a dead loved one. This was one of the hardest aspects for me to cope with.
We’d also like to note that a lot of positive efforts have gone into honoring the African origins of the story. More Swahili and African names are used than in 1994. All the lions in this production—and most of the cast—are voiced by actors of African descent. This keeps it from feeling too polished. It is not heavy on A-grade celebrities, though some fire is added by Beyoncé as Nala and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa.
And how could we not discuss the songs, those touching songs that brightened our childhoods? All the favorites are included, never straying far from what many know and love. There is also a new one named “Spirit” which is performed by Beyoncé. Here, however, we run into some difficulty with the spiritual content of “The Lion King.”
As already mentioned, a few references to spiritual matters are part of the film. While this time the baboon Rafiki does not resemble a witch-doctor, he does watch an assortment of bugs and insects as they seem to ‘fortune tell’ for him about Simba, by painting Simba’s face on a tree trunk.
It could also be suggested that ancestor worship has influenced this story, with its “kings of the past looking down on you” from the starry sky, and a deceased loved one speaking out of the thunder and lightning in a cloud.
The other problem is this new song from Beyoncé which features a gospel choir and lyrics such as, “Spirit, watch the heavens open/ Spirit, can you hear it calling? / So go into a far off land / And be one with the Great I Am.” While only part of the song is played in the film, it includes these words and seems very out of place, except that at the time a character was summoning courage to go face a challenge in another land. But it is concerning that for no clear reason, the precious name of the Lord God is being used to spiritualize the story. In its entirety, the song seems far better suited to the account of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan river, approved by God then sent out into the desert to be tested. Are creators trying to hint at some similarity here? If so, why?
If anything, Simba’s journey is more like our journey as children of God who have grown arrogant, fallen from grace, roamed lost in the wilderness, needed rescuing at huge risk to the rescuer, then eventually been found, forgiven and redeemed to a brave new life of gladly facing responsibilities and our ‘destiny.’ The tragedy is the price our Father has paid to save us, out of His great compassion and mercy.
Scar, meanwhile, is very different to Simba. He is the type to lie, ambush, kill, destroy, accuse, play hero and put his interests above everyone else’s. Like Satan (the Accuser), he twists the truth, trying to wield power over others, ignoring the mercies shown to him. This proves that he is not fit to be king, because, as Nala says, “A true king’s power is his compassion.”
Some other quotes or issues you may wish to discuss before or after viewing “The Lion King” include:
As a casual viewer, it would seem “The Lion King” is simply a nice traditional film full of emotive storytelling, moral lessons and good clean humor. It holds the interest of youngsters and adults alike and has a particularly moving soundtrack. Upon scrutiny, though, it does contain a lot of loud and frightening scenes and a variety of heavy messages that need to be unpacked for youngsters. Some philosophies are later shown to be false and destructive. Though no philosophy is strongly pushed, such ideas could make their way into the next generation’s vocabulary, just as the first Lion King’s phrases made their way into my childhood narrative.
So, is “The Lion King” relatively safe, of moral value and of good entertainment quality? Yes, I believe so, though I wouldn’t take small children to see it.
I can gladly recommend it for children of 10 and over, with parental guidance, and I believe “The Lion King” has rich benefits for all teens and adults. Feeling both short (because enthralling) and long (at 1 hour 58 minutes), there is a satisfaction that comes from its rich beauty and wholesomeness. Wisdom can be gleaned from repeated viewing, as one contrasts the fun reckless lifestyle of Simba’s exile days with the tough but right and healing steps of his grown-up days.
But great as these lion kings are, with their flowing manes, mighty roars and noble rule, none can match the King of Kings, Lord God Almighty.
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” —James 5:11b
LIONS of the Bible
Also see list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.