Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lion King 3D | The first 3D movie worth my $14.50

Last night I went to see The Lion King 3D at my local cinema. I nearly went two nights earlier, but I failed to convince six other men, all very inebriated or already hung over, to take up the task. Because "Boardwalk Empire" was on.

All those guys would totally have seen The Lion King, though.

So screw it, I went and saw it alone. It was 9 p.m., and the theater had exactly one kid, his mom, and about ten or twelve other people, all couples or in groups, and all between the ages of 17 and 35. Meaning everyone in there saw the original movie as a kid and came back to pay three times as much with open arms.

It was totally worth it. My god, it's a completely different movie than you saw in 1994, but even more amazing. For once, 3D actually works because with hand animation, the backgrounds, foregrounds, and all moving elements are already drawn separate from each other. There's a lot less awkward conversion when you can just go back to the original frames if you really need to. And of course those backgrounds are also some of the most lush matte paintings commissioned in the Disney Corporations 82 year history.

It was also the first movie to feature music by Elton John and Tim Rice, who dominated animated musicals for the next ten years, and the film to introduce to us the musically dynamite duo of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

Oh, and the score? The parts not written by the once-domestically partnered duo were written by Hans Zimmer. You might have heard his work in Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Ring, Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, Inception, Angels and Demons, and every Pirates of the Caribbean movie, plus about 131 other movies and "Call of Duty." It's the type of powerful, full orchestral backings that, frankly, if they don't leave you teared up by the last timpani crescendo, you're a heartless monster.

But again, it's a different movie. Whereas when I was 8 I found Scar's opus "Be Prepared" to be annoyingly Latin-infused and kind of dark, I can now recognize precisely crafted syllabic structure and choice vocabulary usage. Oh, and I spotted some hyenas goosestepping in what I'm sure I've seen before in Nazi propaganda films. Yes, I knew about that before, but this time I didn't just feel the sense of dread, I knew what it meant.

I also experienced Nala eye-fucking Simba while they lay splayed in the missionary position in a tropical paradise. (I did not see the S-E-X flower petals before that. Pretty sure it was never there, but Disney definitely took the time to wipe that scene all sparkly just in case.) I got to see what kind of monster Scar really was, not as a child, but as an adult who, looking at him as another grown man, thinks, "What an asshole! I should do something. I could take that guy." He's a scrawny lion. Mufasa's huge, but as far as lion's go, Scar's a loser. He even admits as much. Being a kid, I never noticed before; I'd always just assumed he was huge, and Mufasa was just huger. I was a kid. All adults are enormous.

I never noticed that Scar lived down at the base of Pryde Rock and not up top with the other tough cats. While I saw Mufasa as a stern and loving father, I'd never seen the abject terror in his eyes at the thought of losing Simba to murderous hyenas, at the completely openness of Scar's blood betrayal.

I'd even forgotten that Simba's mom Sarabi was so obviously in voice and stature a regal African woman and Nala, as a cub, a rambunctious little black girl. (Although her mom was definitely as white as Nala grew up to be.)

Themes of murder, absolute power lust, personal freedom versus responsibility and duty, birthright, international politics. I had completely forgotten how much of a Yoda Rafiki was, in that little, strange hermit/wise man posing as a lunatic lifestyle. The parallels to chasing down the rabbit hole, to descending into the underworld to come out the other side, cleansing by both fire and flooding, even the witty banter and pop-culture references have aged well.

And fine, I teared up a half-dozen times through the whole thing. I'm not even embarrassed. Like two of those were in the opening sequence alone. Whatever. Give me another animated feature for kids with gorgeous backgrounds, an Oscar-winning soundtrack, and up-front usage of words like "dead," "kill," and "murderer," and we'll talk.

I made this in I think 11th or 12th grade math class, on a school computer
with MS Paint. That was the day I realized I was scary good with Photoshop.

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