♪Hakuna Matata, oh what a terrible phrase♪
Ugh, I have to do this again? Sigh… well, let’s make this quick.
The story hinges on Simba’s conviction (for the rest of his intellectual life) that he killed his father… and Scar conveniently knows this too. Is this really the best Disney can do? Higher standards, people! Higher standards!
In all, the movie is just not believable. Simba acts stupid, all of the lions minus Nala and Mufasa act stupid, Pumbaa acts stupid, Mufasa 2.0: Cloud-Version acts stupid (come on, you couldn’t have told Simba that he didn’t kill you?), the villain acts stupid (thanks for spoiling the surprise, Scar. Well, duh, of course Simba didn’t kill his father! You told him to stay on the rock!!!), and therefore, the story is stupid.
Miserable. Is it really too much to ask of Disney to make up its mind about what sort of a story this was going to be? I mean, you can’t have it both ways: option one, it is about a spoiled prince who needs to learn how to be king, or option two, it is about a noble prince who needs to reclaim his rightful throne (although this isn’t nearly as interesting as option one). It shouldn’t have been about: a spoiled prince who needs to reclaim his rightful throne!
Why does the baboon get so much screen time?!?
Bringing it all together
This movie was awkwardly sliced into acts. Act 1: Simba is convinced that he killed his father. Act 2: Simba is convinced to return to Pride Rock. Act 3: Simba is convinced by Scar of the OBVIOUS TRUTH! Simba just goes through the motions; come on, think for yourself!
Lie to your elders. Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right. What about… shrugging off all responsibilities? Hmm… no, not quite there yet… waiting for a talking cloud to tell you what to do with your life? Nah… oh, I know! Waiting for a villain to tell you something you should have figured out a long time ago. There we go. That’s the moral of the story: wait for the villain to solve your problems.
But hey, it has stellar animation and songs!
If you didn’t understand any of the points I made earlier, you can read my full, five-part review of The Lion King for more detail. However, something that I didn’t even get to do in my full review is talk about the good aspects of this movie. No sane person will complain about the animation and songs; this has been reiterated here from my full review. What surprises me is that not many defenders of The Lion King bring up what I consider the strong points of the movie. Instead, they try to justify these plot problems by claiming that it’s “only a kid’s movie,” which isn’t a legitimate excuse in my book. The only way The Lion King can be seen as a good movie is if one values these strong points more than the problems the movie poses.
The first point is more observation than anything else—I liked this movie as a kid, and I think this is an opinion of many others. I hate admitting it because I feel like this sentiment people hold for this movie makes them want to irrationally defend The Lion King from critical attack, even if they haven’t seen it for five years or so. With that said, Disney clearly did something right in this movie by winning over the children and even the critics.
I think the reason why this film is likeable is largely due to Mufasa and his death. He is introduced with a certain aura which makes him seem invincible, and to see him fall from that powerful state to a lifeless limp is absolutely shocking. In Bambi, it was implied that his mother was shot dead. Compare that to Mufasa’s death, in which Simba physically interacts with the dead body. To let that reality sink in was a really gutsy move by Disney which I think reflects the unprecedented level of success they experienced at the time.
I am aware that The Lion King is loosely based off of Hamlet, and anyone who seriously believes that such a classic suffers the same plot holes as this stupid children’s film should read my other review: Why Hamlet >> The Lion King. That being said, The Lion King definitely adopted some elements of Shakespearean tragedy which gave this film a mature feel as it tackles the harshness of reality; a tone that tugs at the shackles of its dim-witted story. I think this goes to show the power of Shakespeare’s stories even if I didn’t feel it was correctly adapted in this one. I don’t know why Disney hasn’t tried again, continuing to base their stories off fairytales, as the success of The Lion King clearly demonstrates potential in animating Shakespeare’s plots in the manner Disney has for family entertainment.