WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Lion King, in theaters now.
When it comes to Disney's swath of animated villains, Jeremy Irons' Scar stands out as one of the most conniving, backstabbing and scariest the studio's ever had. In 1994's The Lion King, he schemed his way to the top of the food chain in the Pride Lands, going down in history for the iconic moment in which he killed Mufasa and then manipulated Simba into fleeing the throne.
However, as devilish as that Scar was, 25 years later, Chiwetel Ejiofor's photorealistic take on the character in Jon Favreau's remake paints a lion that's much more intimidating and sinister this time around.
Even in the animated sequels and spinoffs, Scar cast an ominous shadow that haunted Simba and his family. In short, he's always had an imposing presence and to whichever lion in Simba's bloodline sitting atop Pride Rock, Scar will always be a reminder of a tragic past. And so, as Favreau retells the fall of Mufasa and the rise of Simba for a new generation, he smartly gives Scar a lot more agency as to why he's after the throne.
In the '94 film, Scar was simply jealous Mufasa got the crown, hating that Simba was born because it meant he wasn't next in line anymore. Now, though, the story's a bit more nuanced as he actually elaborates when James Earl Jones' Mufasa asks him if he'd like to fight for the throne. Scar reveals he has the "lion's share" when it comes to brains, but in terms of brute strength, Mufasa bested him already when they were younger, hinting Scar did try to battle him to be king, ergo why he got this scar and is seen as an outcast. However, as Zazu (John Oliver) chats with Mufasa about the insubordinate behavior, Mufasa can't bring himself to exile his kin.
We see Scar clearly manipulating this sense of compassion from his brother, fashioning a more cerebral figure than what Irons offered. Sure, that character also knew how to trick Mufasa, but here, the new Scar is on a different level when it comes to mind games. And it isn't just about ruling the land, there's also jealousy over Mufasa winning the heart of Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). We finally get deeper context into the trio's past, as Scar hates his brother for Sarabi being betrothed to him. It makes for a better rivalry and doesn't feel like a cheap love triangle as Scar now has even more reason for the dark motivation he holds within.
Last but not least, Scar's more or less the king of the hyenas, marshaling Shenzi's (Florence Kasumba) troops and making them his royal guard in a more devious and grave manner. They're still used for comedic relief here and there via the likes of Kamari and Azizi, but the others obey Scar as if he's their one, true commander -- no surprise when we see that Sarabi scorning him after Mufasa's death results in Scar yelling at her that for this insolence, the hyenas will feast on carcasses before the disloyal lions.
And so, this spiteful, vindictive Scar comes off much more believable a usurper than the bitter would-be king who got bumped from the throne almost two decades ago. In detailing how Ejiofor's sadistic lion lost his birthright, the lioness he loved since childhood and got relegated to ruling a pack of hyenas, Favreau shapes the rejected lion as a desperate alpha whose internal pride has been dented by Mufasa for years. That's why we can understand why he turned on his brother, drove his cub nephew away and then tried to force Sarabi to be his queen. It's not Scar being petty, it's all about trying to grab hold of a life he envied from the moment he saw how beloved Mufasa was by everyone in the Pride Lands.
In theaters now, director Jon Favreau's The Lion King features the voices of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones.