The Lion King

‘The Lion King’ is a remake of the much admired Disney animated classic from 1994. A popular success for all ages, the tale of love, loss and redemption amongst the African wildlife has seen it endure. With the current unending cycle of remakes, it was a given Disney would dip its oar into these waters. Having remade several animated films to the live-action sphere, Disney’s latest is a triumph for its computer wizards.

Simba is a young lion in Africa looking forward to becoming King of the Pridelands. Worshipping his father Mufasa, Simba’s life goes awry when his evil, ambitious Uncle Scar stages a coup. Forced into exile, Simba relies on the help of Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog. When tensions resurface in the land, Simba is called to action to face Scar and claim the throne.

‘The Lion Kings’ technical success is a double-edged sword. The vistas and creatures it achieves in its ‘photo-realistic’ CGI is stunning. Every crevice and flowing locks of the animals are amazingly rendered. The voice actors from James Earl Jones onwards bring conviction amidst the computerized visions. The simple story flows reasonably well with slow spots and saccharine-sweet sentiment kept to a minimum.

For all its creativity in how it looks, ‘The Lion King’ falls apart due to lack of emotional power. Whilst the voices, scenery and songs are all strong, how the animals’ reaction to events disappoints. Facial expressions are non-existent with the animal’s continual blank looks has the effect of taking you out of the story. Although individual scenes look truly majestic, how the animals barely react to them proves distracting. For all the advances in CGI, there’s still a long way to go in successfully making such computerized characters display genuine emotion as ‘The Lion King’ shows.

Admirers of the original hand-drawn version of ‘The Lion King’ may grumble at this hi-tech remake. Those who haven’t seen the initial take should at least enjoy the dazzling scenery and colourful spectacle. Hopefully technology will further improve with the added ingredient of authentic sincerity providing further kudos to films like these.

Rating out of 10: 6

Spider-man: Far from Home

‘Spider-man: Far from Home’ is the 7th stand-alone film in the overall series. These do not include the stitched together efforts from the late 70’s/early 80’s that were episodes of the infamous Nicholas Hammond-starring TV series. Those of a particular age would remember them with fondness with its goofy charm surprisingly still evident in this bigger budgeted update. Being a huge Spider-man comic book collector since the 70’s, the character has always been of interest with this entry successfully capturing the essence of what made those books captivating page-turners.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is on a school trip to Europe with his school friends MJ (Zendaya) and Ned (Jacob Batalon). His holiday is rudely interrupted when former head of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) enlists his services. Wanting Parker, in his guise as Spider-man, to team up with noted illusionist Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), Fury wants them to battle an otherworldly threat. With Peter’s personal and professional life blurring, he will need all his super-heroics to spin his way out of trouble.

‘Spider-man: Far from Home’ is a consistently entertaining entry in the franchise. Light, exciting and fun, it encompasses the lighter side of the web-spinning. With previous instalments exploring the darker side of the mythology, this recent reboot series has taken a much lighter tone. It doesn’t mean discarding the teenage angst that makes the Spider-story compelling. Peter’s personal problems still captivate and are relatable no matter what age viewers are. How he deals with his friends and foes alike is what sets him apart from the more muscle-bound heroes he encounters.

Like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield before him, Holland makes the character his own. Each actor has conveyed a different aspect of the role with Holland’s keen sense of responsibility and naivety a key component of the comic book’s early days. Jackson and Gyllenhaal are equally strong as well as the other cast members. It’s refreshing seeing the story take Spider-man out of the comfort zone of his usual New York locale with the European locations put to great use. The CGI and cinematography bring each frame to comic-book life with lots of colour and movement under Jon Watts’ strong direction.

Whilst the first two Maguire films are still the best rendition of the character, ‘Spider-man: Far from Home’ is a fine addition. Briskly paced with scenes easily flowing into the other, it’s a solid crowd pleaser. A third outing of Holland’s Spidey would be welcome with the character’s popularity as strong as the webs he weaves.

Rating out of 10: 7