The Lion King 3D

The Lion King 3D

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

With cinemas finding demand for regular 2D films outstripping the audiences for the amped-up 3D versions of the same movie - whether driven by economic avoidance of the 3D premium or simply because they don't feel it adds to the experience - the debate rages on about the long-term viability of the format. Certainly, bad retro-fitted 3D doesn't help, as films such as Alice In Wonderland and Clash Of The Titans have amply demonstrated. Then there's the well-documented issue of the glasses making the action onscreen murkier for many, a real turn-off.

Where 3D really can come into its own, however, is in the world of animation, where colours and contrast can be more easily adjusted to retain vibrancy and where most of the directors have been savvy enough to move past simply thrusting things in our face, in favour of using the medium to immerse us more fully in the picture. Lion King is the perfect choice for a makeover, its beautifully drawn savanna vistas already suggesting depth and breadth and lending themselves to 3D enhancement.

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The essential story - which marked the first time Disney had created a tale from scratch - draws on both the Grimm and Disney legacy of wicked stepmothers, in this case replaced by an uncle plucked from Hamlet, and some familiar elements of more classical mythology to tell the age-old story of a child becoming an adult. The result is a gripping and touching adventure and consideration of friendship that has the timeless quality that guarantees it will be enjoyed by many generations to come.

Lion cub Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick), whom we see being introduced to the world in the opening scenes of the film, is a typical kid - slightly clumsy, slighty full of himself and more than slightly lovable. He's also like most children, incredibly curious. It's a tendency which means that his nasty old Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons, suggesting evil with every beautifully annunciated vowel) doesn't have to plot much to get the young cub in trouble. Tragedy ensues and Simba flees, only to find himself befriended by an unlikely - or likely, considering mismatched comic pairings are a staple of animated films - duo of pals. Meerkat Timon (Nathan Lane) and warthog Pumba (Ernie Sabella).

The film has both a nicely pitched sense of comedy - the supporting cast includes Rowan Atkinson as self-important hornbill Zazu and Whoopi Goldberg as a sinister but reassuringly useless hyena - and some decent scares and, like Disney films of old, it isn't afraid to make children cry. Tim Rice and Elton John's songs, meanwhile, may not be particularly memorable in their own right but they're complemented by such good animation that they fit the mood. And the good news for those considering taking their family to the 3D version is that none of these essential elements are lost in the update.

The 3D genuinely adds a layer of freshness to the experience, right from the opening frames when we fly into the heart of the film with Zazu, and the immersive effect makes you reconsider and appreciate the exquisite hand-drawn animation all the more. Far from being a distraction, the 3D here is the King's crowning glory. Find a big screen near you and step into it.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2011
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The Lion King 3D packshot
A guilt-ridden lion cub goes on an adventure. Reissued in 3D.
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Festivals:

EIFF 2011

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