So a few months ago my friends and I decided to watch The Brave Little Toaster. It was a movie that I had fond memories of from my childhood and I was excited to revisit it. It turns out that movie was terrible! The story was dumb, boring and just plain weird. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed that I watched it since those are the feelings I now associate with that movie. Now I knew The Lion King would never be as terrible if I watched it again but I did have some worry in the back of my mind that maybe it wouldn't be quite as incredible as I remembered it from my childhood...and then it started.
As the obscured sun rose over the savanna to those oh so famous lyrics that none of us really know, any worries that I had seemed to slip away. The opening song reveals the gorgeous tapestry that is the African wildlife and it's an early opportunity for the filmmakers to show us what the 3D can do for this film. The end result? Perhaps an even more beautiful movie than we remember. I absolutely love when 3D is used to simply add depth to shots rather than make a billion things shoot out of the screen at the audience and this is exactly what they've done. The savanna appears to have real depth and some of the shots, i.e. Simba and Mufasa staring out over their kingdom are truly breathtaking. If you were worried that the 3D might look cheap or ineffective let me promise you that it only adds to the experience.
If you're like me, then you haven't actually sat down and watched The Lion King since your youth. Sure we know all the songs and know the story, but it has been far too long since I actually watched the film from beginning to end. Even though this is a movie for kids I don't think they can quite grasp how truly great The Lion King really is. First off there are plenty of jokes that went right over our heads as kids and some of them are honestly hilarious. There's a part where Zazu is reporting all of the problems in the kingdom to Mufasa and his voice sort of fades into the background. Now as kids we blocked out whatever he was saying but if you listen you start to hear lines like, "I've told the elephants to forget it, but you know they can't" and "Cheetahs never prosper." Timon and Pumbaa are still laugh out loud funny but also the perfect example of how incredible loyal friends truly are. It was incredible to revisit this movie that I watched countless times as a kid and pick up on what I missed back then, and that goes beyond the humor.
This is an emotional movie. I think for us (my generation), seeing this movie again at this point in our lives is a pretty incredible thing. We watched this movie as children and I think many of us have carried the image of Mufasa's death as one of the saddest parts of any movie from our childhood. I know the scene was in the back of my mind from the very beginning and I was dreading getting to the stampede sequence because I knew what was coming. But before that, a scene I had completely forgotten about caught me off guard. It's the part when Simba believes he is about to be scolded by his dad and Mufasa shows how much he cares for his son. Simba believes his father could never be afraid of anything but Mufasa catches him off guard by revealing that he had been scared before, scared that he had lost his son. He tells Simba that he is only brave when he has to be and that true bravery is not to go looking for trouble. We see how much Simba looks up to his dad and we see how much Mufasa, this image of the most powerful king, can still be vulnerable. The relationship between father and son is portrayed so realistically and so uniquely in this movie it's impossible to not get involved. As they look to the stars and Mufasa tells of the kings who are always looking down on them, I realized how powerful the messages in this movie really are.
So what are the messages? What was the movie instilling in each of us as we were growing up? Well, to be honest it's very simple but very powerful. I think the most prominent messages are that change is good, bad things will happen but we must learn from the past, and choosing to do the right thing will never be easy. There's an absolutely incredible sequence when Rafiki is trying to show Simba the way. He leads him through the brush to a pond where he shows Simba that his father still lives within him. We see Simba begin to realize that he has to become his father in order to save the land that he loves. Mufasa appears in a vision in the clouds and calls on Simba to remember who he is and where he came from. We see Simba's conflict as he struggles with the decision of staying in the carefree life of Timon and Pumbaa or risking everything to take his rightful place as king of Pride Rock. This movie is truly powerful as I think we can all relate to Simba in one way or another, especially those of us who have now grown up and experienced life.
"Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or...learn from it."
I could go on and on about how important I think this movie is. It has to be considered one of Disney's greatest triumphs in their incredible cinematic history and the fact that over a decade later it can still bring tears to our eyes is a testament to how timeless it truly is. I can't recommend it enough and I hope that everyone makes time to go see it before it leaves theaters on September 30th.
The Lion King is truly magnificent and this re-release in theaters brings only one thought to mind...The King has returned.
My Rating: A+