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
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
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
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
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
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
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…
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.