The Lion King 2 (1998)

Much like I don’t understand the popularity of The Lion King, I don’t understand why The Lion King 2 is largely considered its inferior—honestly, at least from the sequels I have seen, this is Disney’s best sequel, and maybe one of the few that competes with the original. Although, that statement probably isn’t saying all too much.

One of the reasons why I wanted to review this movie is because Disney took one of the suggestions I made in my The Lion King review. Okay, no, I was four when this movie came out, so they didn’t actually take my suggestion, but I complained about how The Lion King seemed pro-segregation by promoting separation between the lions and the hyenas. This time, they removed the hyenas… for no apparent reason… and replaced the lower-class hyenas with the lower-class lions… I guess Disney really couldn’t stand the idea of uniting the hyenas with the lions. But you know, it’s strange a sequel would compromise the first movie’s premise trying to make a better sequel, and I respect it for that.

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In all, The Lion King 2 does well on what The Lion King did poorly, and does poorly on what the original did well. My biggest problem of The Lion King is resolved in this one: the director’s intentions seem present. He wanted to base a story around Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in order to extend Mufasa’s circle of life philosophy to the hyen… I mean the lower-class lions. While The Lion King was all about separation, The Lion King 2 is all about uniting. In the process of doing so, Disney loses the mature tone of the original, but at least the plot is coherent. Simba acts reasonably in this one. While in the first one he would trust anybody, now he has learned that trust is something that should be earned. Kiara is a better Simba. Sure, she disobeys her father, but not in a way that endangers other people’s lives, involves lying, or singing a song basking in one’s own ego. Zazu is treated with respect. He is not seen being beat up in every scene he’s in. Sure, the love story is rather bland, but the story is actually pretty good. It’s about a son who wants to gain the approval of his mother; it’s about an over-protective father who needs to let go a little; it’s about recognizing “we are one.”

Had this movie been at the technical level of The Lion King, I think this would have been at least a B-caliber movie. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The animation and songs are not as good as the original, although the drop-off isn’t as noticeable as one might expect it to be. I think the biggest problem of this movie is that we’ve all seen this before. It’s very predictable, and nothing about it really sticks out. For as much as I despise The Lion King’s success, it is a very memorable experience, in both good and bad ways. In the end, it’s your choice of either style or substance. I’m going to say it’s a tie.

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