|Home Videos: The Lion King (1994)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 04 October 2011 06:39|
From the opening chants, it's hard not to be swept up in the brilliance of it all, especially when the low-level camera swings round to reveal Pride Rock in all its proud, rocky glory. Directors Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff were clearly onto something here. It's odd that they never went on to do anything else remotely good - one directed Stuart Little, the other Open Season. Oh well, Hakuna Matata.
But there's a reason why I like it so much more than, say, The Jungle Book or Aladdin. It's the story of Simba (Matthew Broderick in his best role since Ferris Bueller's Day Off), a son whose father is killed by his evil uncle, prompting the boy to run away for years before returning for vengeance. Sound familiar? That's because it is.
Ok, there are changes made to the original play, but the basic setup is almost identical (read: not really at all, but hey, this is my blog post). Hamlet / Simba's dad, Mufasa, gets bumped off by Scar / Claudius, leaving the kingdom to fall under his rule while Hamlet / Simba's mum is paraded around like some kind of trophy wife / lioness sex slave.
Then there's Hamlet's father. He visits Simba as a ghost, reminding him that he should avenge his death. And, of course, Simba totally pays attention - because you don't say no to Mufasa. His name is too scary for that. It's so scary, I'll type it again. Mufasa. *shudders* Mufasa, Mufasa, MUFASA. You get the idea.
Why so scary? We all know it's because he's voiced by none other than James Earl Jones - the man who not only voiced Darth Vader but also made Justin Bieber's song Baby sound even better.
No wonder Simba is so keen to get revenge against Jeremy Irons for bumping off this cinematic legend. Our hero doesn't sink into madness in quite the same way as Hamlet, but there's no telling how crazy Simba goes while he wanders the African plains. After all, he does dress up as Lisa Simpson halfway through and have visions of CNN:
At this point, a special mention should also go to The Lion King's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Timon and Pumbaa - not just because Nathan Lane is the voice of the musical meerkat, but because they provide one of the film's most memorable songs.
It's an excellent soundtrack all round, in fact. Hans Zimmer's score was only bettered by his work on Inception (Circle of BRRRMMMM would be a wonderful remix), while Tim Rice's lyrics reach a level of near-Sondheim perfection with Scar's song Be Prepared.
For all the fear induced by The Irons, it goes without saying that this is a family-friendly film. Simba doesn't die from a poisoned sword. Simba's mum, too, doesn't drink poisoned wine (or swamp water, whatever). Likewise, Simba's girlfriend Nala (Hamlet's Ophelia) doesn't drown herself in a fit of mad rejection. As for Hamlet's rival Laertes, well he doesn't exist at all in Disney's version of events. Poor guy.
Bizarrely, The Lion King's sequel follow a similar Shakespearean bent. The Lion King II: Simba's Pride sees Simba's son fall in love with Scar's heir, which is effectively Romeo and Juliet. Even better than that, The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata sees Timon and Pumbaa tell their own version of events from the very beginning of the first film. Which is basically identical to Tom Stoppard's work of genius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Needless to say, Timon and Pumbaa are very much not dead.
For Shakespeare completists, it's worth noting that there's one final Lion King character that hasn't been mentioned: Rafiki, or That Monkey with the Stick. Where does he stand in the great Hamlet analogy? Erm, he doesn't. He means absolutely nothing.
And that comment's probably about as racist as me shouting African chants when I first put the tape in the VCR. So I'll shut up now.
Thank God I don't have Gnomeo and Juliet on VHS.
The Lion King 3D is out in UK cinemas on Friday 7th October. Watch the Lion King 3D trailer here.