WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Lion King, in theaters now.
1994's The Lion King will always hold a special place, not just in Disney's archives, but the annals of cinema history on the whole. The animated feature is widely regarded as one of the best stories of all time, which makes it no surprise the studio embarked on a photorealistic computer-animated remake following the likes of Dumbo and Aladdin.
Most of Jon Favreau's film sticks to the core essence from 25 years ago, with a few tweaks here and there to characters like Shenzi (Florence Kasumba). And sadly, this means the new movie sadly ends up repeating the same mistakes when it comes to the conclusion of Simba's ascent to the throne of the Pride Lands.
SCAR IS DUMBED DOWN... AGAIN
Once more, Scar makes the dumbest decision right when he's about to win the war within his bloodline in the film's final act. The evil lion, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor, exposes Simba's (Donald Glover) accountability in Mufasa's death, leaving the lion emotionally broken. He tries apologizing to the pride, but the bullish Scar intimidates him so much with guilt, Simba slips off the edge of Pride Rock, clinging on for dear life.
But just as in the original, Scar sinks his claws down into Simba's legs, and whispers that this reminds him of a familiar situation: the moment he clawed Mufasa's hands which resulted in him falling off the cliff in the gorge to be trampled in a stampede. When Simba hears this, the rage pushes him back up and he beats Scar down, yelling at him to tell everyone what he did. Scar acquiesces, which kickstarts the big fight at the end as the lions battle the hyenas once and for all.
The problem with this is Scar has no reason whatsoever to admit he killed the king. The pride was already questioning Simba's return so he could easily have denied this and seeded more mistrust, after all, no one knew if to believe Simba anymore. But by confessing so easily, Disney once more insults Scar's intelligence and removes the epic sense of villainy from the character.
Most of all, though, Scar didn't need to tell Simba anything as he had him dead to rights hanging off the cliff. Gloating turns out to be a stupid move and Disney once more uses it as his downfall, which undoes everything this more cerebral version of Scar accomplished with ease.
SIMBA'S REGAL POTENTIAL IS WASTED
When Simba eventually knocks Scar off the cliff to be attacked and mauled to death by the hyenas, this is the last we see of the henchmen. They're not present after when the land unites once more under Simba and flourishes years later, verdant and filled with life. Favreau follows this route to the tee and this paints Simba as a segregative king like his dad.
By offering forgiveness to the hyenas, he could have carved a path Mufasa was never willing to. Shenzi, the hyena queen, makes it clear throughout the film her vendetta is due to Mufasa exiling her species, so rather than leaving them out in the cold, the story could have allowed Simba to be the bigger animal and have them integrate once more into the society. In the process, Favreau would have freshened up Simba, making him an even wiser and more compassionate ruler than Mufasa en route to upping the fallen king's legacy.
Ending with him, Nala and Rafiki showing off the new cub to the world feels cosmetic, and while it wraps the Circle of Life theme in the story, it isn't a really nuanced take. This rinse and repeat conclusion from '94 feels lazy as well, and given the film's message of acceptance, Favreau would certainly have thrown fans a curveball had Simba addressed the hyenas' future in his kingdom.
Seeing as the breaking down of borders is such an important message in this day and age, it'd have painted a very intriguing sociopolitical statement as well, with Simba's kingdom empathizing and looking to build relations with the outcasts in the name of true peace.
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.