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70. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Lion King

April 17, 2018

Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

Screenplay: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, Linda Woolverton

Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Rowan Atkinson, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Niketa Calame, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin

Runtime: 88 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1994

 

★★★★★

 

If there’s a renaissance film that’s never likely to age, it’s this. There’s an interesting tale here to be told of the balance of life, and Scar’s mistreatment of its delicate equilibrium beckoning a cataclysm upon the Pride Lands emblematic of overconsumption - possibly. But really, its message of responsibility is what speaks volumes, with Timon and Pumbaa’s hippy articulacy signalling Simba’s maturation into adulthood through both physical and spiritual means.

 

Also, The Lion King is still Disney’s biggest film in way of its ambitious scale. The marriage of cinematography and art design bequeaths the film an aura of majesty and breathtaking beauty that the studio has really yet to match. The Elephant Graveyard and Timon and Pumbaa’s paradise harbour great detail, while the Pride Rock settlement, in particular, is an incredible visual monolith. The tremendous weight of its thematic roots in Shakespearian composition bring to it a rousingly emotional depth, as you’re involved in the heroes’ lives grows so does your empathy with their actions. Hans Zimmer’s tremendously effectual score suits the sweeping landscape magnificently well, in both its softer moments and sequences of heart stomping action.

 

The vocal performances are all on form, in particular from Earl Jones, Atkinson and Irons, who’s Scar is spoken so lusciously well that he could only ever come across as insidious. Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella’s introduction as the comic relief may come a little soon after act one’s tragedy, but they’re a welcome and beautifully portrayed duo that the film benefits from in the long run. Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical numbers are all memorable in composition and help to push the story forward in their own ways. The pace as dictated by the direction and screenplay mean that there is never a dull moment, making its re-watch value intensely worthwhile.

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