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MOVIE REVIEW

The Lion King

also known as “Araatnii Khaan Arslan,” “Aslan Kral,” “Az oroszlánkirály,” “Der König der Löwen,” “El Rey León,” “Il re leone,” “Kralj lavova,” “Król lew,” “Le Roi Lion,” See more »
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Preteens • Teens • Young-Adults • Adults
Genre:
Adventure Music Drama Remake 3D IMAX
Length:
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
July 19, 2019 (wide—4,500+ theaters)
DVD: October 22, 2019
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Anthropomorphism of animals—giving them human minds, emotions and reasoning / In what ways does this sometimes confuse children, and even some adults?

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Coming of age

Importance of the young growing in maturing, taking responsibility for what needs to be done, and being brave

Courage

Taking a strong stand against evil and for goodness

A good king searches for what he can give to others

Kings of the Bible—good and bad

Importance of positive friendships

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Betrayal

Tragedy

False accusations / lies

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

SATAN’S STRATEGY—What is one of Satan’s most successful strategies in dealing with followers of Christ? Answer

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Murder of one’s father

Dealing with grief

Exile

Famine

GUILT—How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

FORGIVEN?—If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Life and death

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.

What is ETERNAL LIFE? and ETERNAL DEATH?

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Issue of pain and suffering

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

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

LIONS of the Bible

ANIMALS of the Bible

EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT—Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer

What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation in Christian Answers’ site for kids—activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more
Featuring: Donald GloverSimba (voice)
Seth RogenPumbaa (voice)
James Earl JonesMufasa, father of Simba and the King of the Pride Lands (voice)
Chiwetel EjioforScar, brother of Mufasa (voice)
Alfre WoodardSarabi, the Queen of the Pride Lands, Mufasa’s mate, and Simba’s mother (voice)
John KaniRafiki, a mandrill (voice)
Keegan-Michael KeyKamari, a spotted hyena (voice)
BeyoncéNala, Simba’s childhood best friend (voice)
John OliverZazu, a red-billed hornbill (voice)
Billy Eichner … Timon, a meerkat (voice)
Amy Sedaris … Elephant shrew (voice)
See all »
Director: Jon Favreau
Producer: Fairview Entertainment
Walt Disney Pictures
See all »
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
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?

Lowlights and highlights

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.”

Look deeper

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:

  • ‘Life’s not fair’ (but this is said by the least fair character of the lot, perhaps as an excuse for bad behavior)
  • ‘While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.’
  • ‘If he falls in love tonight… our pal is doomed.’
  • ‘I will always fight a bully.’
  • ‘Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.’

Final Comments

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

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.” —Psalm 51:1

  • Violence: Heavy
  • Profane language: Minor
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor
  • Mental health triggers: • grief • guilt • tormentor
  • Occult: Minor
  • Nudity: None
  • Sex: None

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LIONS of the Bible

Also see list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I went to Lion King with my husband and eight-year-old daughter. We all loved the original movie and we loved the Broadway version that we were fortunate enough to see. This remake did not disappoint. It was visually beautiful and we all enjoyed the film. I am loyal to the first one, and prefer it a little more than this one. Having said that, I think most would enjoy this film who are fans of the first, and the new generation.

There is some violence in nature that is realistic. My daughter loves nature shows and wants to be a vet, so the images do not disturb her. Some children might be a little more sensitive to the imagery, so be forewarned. I see a lot of Christian themes throughout such as Mufasa’s love for his child that He would die for him. The battle between good and evil.

I was moved by the scene in the beginning where all the animals bow down. It always made me think of how all of creation will bow one day to the King of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. I always loved this, and both films present this beautifully. I was very grateful for them keeping mostly true to the original.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Laura Cal, age 35+ (USA)
Positive—I recently watched this film with my aunt. I have not had a strong connection to the animated feature on which it is based and, therefore, found it easy to disconnect this film from its source material. That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised with how very moral this film’s messages were. The idea of life having no purpose except to pleasure one’s self is shown to be empty and wrong. The idea of sacrifice and meaning were executed well. I was also surprised to find a reference of monotheism presented here within a background song which used the exact words of “becoming one with the great I Am.” Here we have a nod to the living presence of God and his divinity—here, in a Disney film, of all places!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Patrick M Ullmer, age 22 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I really looked forward to this movie, but left the theater feeling disappointed. I appreciate it sticking to the original story, but, in my opinion, it was too close to the original story. Unlike the recent “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” remakes, I saw no originality in this movie. It is just a different style of animation of the same story. If you’ve seen the original, you’ve seen this one. My wife commented on the fact that the characters never showed emotion. This might make animals look more realistic, but it is not enjoyable to watch on film. Overall, it is a well-done movie with limited objectionable content, and if you’ve never seen the original, you’ll really enjoy this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
William, age 55 (USA)
Neutral—I want to say that the movie is visually stunning. The animals look so real. This is where my positive review stops. The movie lacks originality. They used the exact same script as the cartoon. I do not understand how they justify calling this a live action movie. The entire film is all computer generated images. What was the point to making this picture?

I feel that of all the live action movies Disney has made, “Dumbo” is the best. It had a different storyline to the cartoon. I felt the bad guy was bad in typical Disney fashion. Unfortunately, I did not feel it in “The Lion King.” I saw both the cartoon version and the Broadway musical. They were the same story, too. I hate to say this, but if you saw the original movie or the Broadway version or both, don’t go see this film. It is the same movie, only it was done on a computer.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Karen, age 49 (USA)
Negative
Negative—This movie is extremely violent. I really liked this movie in the cartoon and sure it had dark parts in the cartoon, but with the cartoon it did take the edge off how intense this story is. In the movie, there is constant destruction, fighting, murder, evil plotting and only a few scenes that were nice and funny. I was so stressed out watching this version of it, I almost left, but I knew it was going to get to the part where he hung out with Timon and Pumba.

I wish I would not have had seen this version. I was impressed at how real the animals looked, they were absolutely amazing. But this movie is so intense and was so scary for me and my husband, we felt completely stressed after seeing it. I would not recommend taking any children, not just young children. There are so many violent, brutal scenes and outright murder, its honestly not needed for anyone to see those things.

I am really surprised how minimized that really comes across in the cartoon which I did enjoy the original. Just didn’t feel that intense. I am hoping we can both go to sleep tonight we are so amped. My husband when we left said he felt like he just watched a horror flick! And he even watches things like boxing or MMA fighting and is a macho man, so that tells you how intense it was!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Stephanie, age 44 (USA)

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