9 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE FROM THE LION KING REMAKE

You got to hand it to them, whatever you think of Disney, they are freaking evil geniuses when it comes to marketing. These live action remakes are the perfect way to keep their aging films relevant, and because those films have our childhood nostalgia by the balls, we will keep on going to see them over and over again. After the dizzying success of Beauty and The Beast, the next one on the horizon is The Lion King.

With the director who handled The Jungle Book pretty well on the case, the live action version of The Lion King has a pretty good shot of being actually good. Here are a few things I’d like to see from a remake that would really help it to up its game.

1. PLEASE FIX THE JARRING CHANGE IN MOOD OF THE ORIGINAL

From tragic death to Hasa Diga Eebowai Hakuna Matata in five minutes, this is the most break neck tonal shift since Bambi.

I mean, he’s watched his dad die, he’s been told it’s all his fault, he’s been seperated from everyone he loves but hey! Don’t get too upset kids-  Fart jokes! Goddamnit, If I wasn’t ready to move on, then sure as hell Simba wasn’t.So movie, try and ease us into the lighter scenes a little less haphazardly.

2. USE THE EXTRA RUN TIME TO GIVE SARABI MORE DEVELOPMENT

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If you were even half the President Obama was!

Sarabi is a strong lioness who’s balsy enough to go up to an evil tyrant and tell him to his face what a crap king he is. Imagine what she would be like in congress! But seriously, the problem is that she really gets brushed aside a bit. I mean, she’s barely an afterthought when Nala brings her up, and Simba spends a long time mourning for his dad but doesn’t spend even a second missing his mother. Hell, she was cut out of the sequel while Mufasa had a prominent role… and Mufasa was dead!

Don’t get me wrong, the focus of this film is (and needs to be) Simba and his father, but this lioness lost her husband and her son on the same day- and that’s so much worse than the death of a parent! She is an underated character who needs more love. I think maybe a scene or two between Simba and Sarabi, reconnecting and acknowledging their shared grief- and her pain at thinking her son was dead- is an angle that would really add a lot.

And speaking of leading ladies…

3. FEMALE RAFIKI

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The directors of the stage musical made a good point that there wasn’t really a prominent female character in the film besides Nala. And she was just the love interest. Even in female lead films Disney did love the smurfette principle in their Renaissance era. As much as I adored the original portrayal and thought he had the perfect balance of humour and wisdom, the Rafiki of the stage musical was really, really good. If you can’t get the original actor to come back, then lets get a female Rafiki.

4. MAKE THE CLIMAX AN EVEN MORE EPIC FIGHT SCENE

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It may not be Batman vs Superman, but watching two lions brawl is freaking badass, and so is a lioness army cutting through a gang of angry Hyenas!

The Lion King has one of the most rewarding climaxes. Everything- from Simba appearing in lightning as Scar shrieks ‘I’m ten times the King Mufasa was’, to the fight between him and Scar, to Scar’s confession- it sends shivers down my spine and so should the live action.

This director stepped up with the action in The Jungle Book, and I hope he does here as well!

5. MAKE MUFASA’S DEATH ACTUALLY SIMBA’S FAULT

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The Nostalgia Critic may have been wrong about the merits of the film, but he made an interesting point about the central conflict in his Disneycember review. That it was all about facing up to your mistakes, and yet as soon as Simba went to Pride Rock, it doesn’t matter because it turns out he didn’t make any in the first place. Good thing because his childhood friend and his freaking mother would have watched Scar throw him off the cliff if Scar didn’t confess.

Even as a kid, the conflict made no sense to me; Mufasa’s death clearly wasn’t his fault. I understand why as a kid he felt guilty. But as an adult? The guilt angle didn’t quite clinch. This would have worked a lot better if Mufasa’s death was Simba’s fault.

Imagine if the reason Mufasa died isn’t just that Scar tricked him… but he went somewhere else that Mufasa told him not to go. That Mufasa died to save him because of Simba’s actions… actions that he was too young to understand but whose consequences he has to live with for the rest of his life. That would make a strong conflict absolutely devastating.

6. IF YOU ARE HAVING BEYONCE AS NALA, YOU BETTER BELIEVE SHE’S SINGING SHADOWLAND

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Casting Queen B is another marketing move so clever, you almost have to stand up and applaud; Emma Watson may not have been the best actress, but having Hermione play the brunette bookworm princess was such a smart move. Meanwhile, Beyonce is royalty in the eyes of many African Americans (especially Black women), so making her the film’s future Queen is perfect- especially since this in effect makes Beyonce a Disney royal. Think of all the memes we’ll have when her twins are born. Sure, we don’t really know how well she can act, but Nala was more of a plot device and ploy to market toy lion cubs to girls than a complex character anyway, so she won’t make or break this movie.

I’m still not sure whether music would work with talking lions, but if they do, they need to put their Beyonce to good use! Shadowland was a beautiful and haunting addition to the stage musical, and I would love to see this sung by a woman who doesn’t need to rely on autotune.

7. GIVE IT MORE OF AN AFRICAN FEEL LIKE IN THE STAGE MUSICAL

Granted, it was more generic Africa than any specific culture, but still! It added quite a lot to the musical. I’m glad that they got James Earl Jones and his big manly booming voice for Mufasa, and a few other talented Black or African actors in the voice cast (as well as Queen B) wouldn’t go amiss.

The stronger feel for the time period worked well for Beauty and The Beast, so a stronger connection with the African landscape will serve this well too.

8. MAKE SCAR TERRIFYING

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Scar is one of Disney’s most memorable villains, thanks to Jeremy Iron’s performance, the fact that he killed a major character and, aside from Frollo, he has the coolest villain song.

Scar did follow some unfortunate Disney villain tropes in being slightly, well…

British.

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Okay, I know you thought I was going to say fey, but seriously. Look at the sarcasm that drips from those gestures. You can practically see that he wants to flip his paw around and give Musasa the finger, but he won’t because he has too much class. This worked well in the original, but I’m not convinced it will translate well to live action and I think Disney could lay off the fops for a bit. I want this to be a really, powerful warlike Scar, one that carries underlying menace, even if he is not stupid enough to say anything treasonous outright.

Maybe he could have got that Scar from fighting Mufasa flat out, Mufasa could have scarred him in the battle and Mufasa could have made him keep that name as a reminder of his shame. In short, I want to see both the soft, silver tongued manipulator and the big, murderous tyrant who inspires fear in his followers and shows us why Sarabi and Nala were too frightened to gang up on him and take him.

9. THIS BETTER MAKE ALL THE MEN IN THE AUDIENCE BAWL LIKE BABIES

‘Those are manly tears! I swear!’ This film is brilliant because its heart breaking and really gets through the sense of loss at losing a parent. If this film fails to do that, then nothing else the film could possibly do matters.

I COULD TELL YOU WHY GHOST IN THE SHELL ISN’T DOING SO WELL, AND ITS NOT JUST WHITE WASHING

1. THE NUDE SUIT MAKES WOMEN GO ‘NO THANKS’

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It used to be common wisdom that marketing to women was financial suicide, and that if you had two women passing the Betchdel then the testes of all the men in the audience would shrivel and die as they wept in the corner, disgusted and horrified by the revelation that women might be people.

But who knew? Apparently men (well the majority, anyway) aren’t crazed mysogynists,  and appealing to the other 50% of the population is profitable. Look at the explosive success of both Frozen and Beauty and The Beast. It should have been obvious that if you’ve got a female lead film with a popular actress, then female audiences should be part of your target demographic. But they alienated them with that stupid naked, fetishistic suit which made no sense whatsoever.

The original Ghost In The Shell movies is a classic, but that naked suit was ridiculous then and the one thing that SHOULD have been thrown to the wayside.

2. IT FORGOT TO TELL A COMPELLING STORY

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this film.While there are plenty of fans upset by the arse f@cking alterisations this classic recieved, and plenty of others upset by the white washing, there are lots of new viewers who care about neither issue that were just bored.

If you a film’s got an inheritely crowd pleasing idea like sexy vampires or superheroes pummeling each other, then it can get away with lackluster storytelling with the right marketing. GITS didn’t have that luxury, so bottom line is that  it needed to be a good movie to make an impression, and this just didn’t cut it.

3. IT KICKED FANS OF THE ORIGINAL IN THE FACE

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This was a big problem. It transformed a thoughtful, philosophical sci fi film which asked a lot of deep questions about identity, what makes a person ‘them’, or even ‘male’ or ‘female’ if the physical form is easily discarded- into a generic revenge flick against a Big Mean corporation. It bears more in common with Neuromancer and its heroine Molly Millions than it did to GITS and the goddamned Major.

The only things thing they did to make it connect to the franchise is to include a few cyberpunk elements, recreate a few scenes devoid of the meaning or context of the original, and kept the stupid naked suit. It bore so little resemblence to the spirit of the original, that there was no reason to even make it part of the franchise in the first place.

4. IT MARKED A CYBERPUNK FILM IN 2016

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This would have done well during Disney’s Renaissance, but the audience has moved on

Yeah, timeliness and marketing are everything. Look at Princess and The Frog for instance. Although it had a good story (albeit not an excellent one), it didn’t do as well because it was released at a time when computer animation was in and handrawn animation was being relegated to the small screen. Sure, it cashed in on nostalgia for older viewers, but a nostalgic Disney film isn’t going to appeal to the kids.

This film makes the same error; it looks and feels like Blade Runner. But cyberpunk is a very 90s genre, when we still had no clue what cyberspace was or what the internet were going to turn out like. Giving a film an aesthetic that had its heydey decades ago while bringing nothing new to the table is not a good marketing move.

5. DID YOU NOT SEE THE #OSCARSSOWHITE?

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Look, whitewashing has been an extremely contentious issue recently. While most audiences genuinely don’t care that much about whitewashing, the fact is that it is a big hot button issue. So of course, when media outlets that would usually provide free publicity ask questions, they’re all going to centre around that issue . As a result, the only thing people were hearing about the film was its white washing, and that certainly isn’t endearing.

Writers, if you REALLY believed that a non white actress doesn’t hold ‘mass market appeal’, then you could have avoided all this by just creating your own robot film– or derived it from a Western franchise like The Bionic Woman or Terminator.If you did that you could even pretend to be progressive without putting in any work. You’d already get points for having a female action lead.

All you’d need to do from there is include a token Asian and have someone like your now Not!Batou  make a very ambiguous statement about his sexuality and voila! You’re now progressive! (actually, he’s tool masculine, that tends to upset people because there has never been a manly gay man ever. Make that Not!Togusa)

But speaking of existing franchises, we also have this problem.

6. PEOPLE ARE GETTING EXHAUSTED WITH ENDLESS SEQUELS AND REBOOTS

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Creativity, creativity, why have you forsaken thee

Disney are getting away with it (for now) because their reboots are a visually interesting and manage to at least be passable. But overall, the audience is getting tired of reboots. So releasing a film that is (a) mediocre in terms of storytelling (b) unfaithful to the spirit of the source material (c) manages to repel women in spite of being female lead and (d) has a controversy that dominates the talk of the film… you’ve got a box office bomb on your hands.

And that, my friends, is why GITS tanked.