There may never be another work I add to my “Overrated” catalog that is as loved as The Lion King. I might get a lot of unhappy responses for doing this, but I’m sticking to my guns. This movie is not just overrated, it’s massively overrated.
If you think about it, this movie’s entire second half centers around the results of Simba’s stupidity. The first half centered around his selfishness. Seriously, why are we supposed to care about him? There’s nothing to like about him. We only cheer for him because the movie tells us to, through music, and all the other good guys rooting for him, and because he’s not outright evil like Scar, I guess.
His first scene: Whining for his parents to wake up, then DEMANDING they wake up.
His second scene: He learns that because he’s Mufasa’s son, he will get to own everything.
His third scene: Failing to understand his father’s wisdom, and then pouncing on Zazu.
His fourth scene: Rubbing his birthright into his uncle’s face.
His fifth scene: Singing about how he can’t wait for his dad to die.
His sixth scene: Putting himself, Nala, and Zazu at risk for their lives.
I could go on. I really could. But, I’m sure you get the point. This isn’t like most family movies (like the amazing Emperor’s New Groove) where the hero learns not to be selfish at the end. Nope. Simba just simply decides to come back and fight Scar, for no other reason, again, than because he was born into royalty.
I didn’t notice as a kid that Simba didn’t really learn anything. Only as an adult did I notice this. Additionally, he only stayed away from his kingdom after Mufasa’s death because he believed Scar’s stupid, stupid lie that it’s his fault his dad died. Seriously, in the moment, I can understand Simba blaming himself, but he spent the entire rest of his childhood, all of his ‘teen’ years, and his early adult years STILL believing Scar’s idiotic lie. Why would he possibly think he was responsible for his father’s death?
If anything, he should have figured out, rather quickly, that it was all Scar’s doing. I mean, Scar said, “Here, sit on this rock in the middle of nowhere.” Then, a stampede happens immediately after, then after the stampede had passed, Scar just HAPPENS to appear right where Simba and his dead father are. Oh, and Scar showed no grief over losing his brother. Interesting coincidence, don’t you think? Really, how did Simba not piece this together? It’s so damn obvious.
All in all, Simba’s an idiot, he didn’t learn anything, and most importantly, we didn’t learn anything from him. He’s a terrible main character. Basically, all we learned is: If you are born into royalty, make sure the right heir ascends to the throne…… Okay, then.
Now a look at the movie’s antagonist. First and foremost, whose brilliant idea was it to name him Scar? The fact that the movie doesn’t remotely explain how he got this name implies a few things. It implies that maybe he got the name because he got that scar on his face at some point, and ‘Scar’ is just a nickname. Or, it implies that he was born with that scar (making it a weird birthmark) and his parents decided to name him Scar because they hated him or something? You seriously don’t name your kid that unless you hate them from the moment they’re born. If the reason for his name is the second implication, then I don’t blame him for hating his family. They seemed to hate him for no reason.
Maybe Scar was adopted. He doesn’t even look related to Mufasa or Simba.
Now let’s look at Scar’s plan. He tricks Simba into getting in the midst of the stampede. During said stampede, Zazu says he’ll call for help, then Scar knocks him out. How did Zazu not remember that? “Ow, my head! What happened? Last I remember, Scar said Simba’s in danger, Mufasa went after him, and then I blacked out…. Why did I black out? Eh, oh well.”
That seriously had to have been Zazu’s thinking. He just shrugged it off and inexplicably decided not to think about it. He must have completely forgotten being at the stampede to not piece that together. But then it would beg the question: How did he wake up and fly back home, from the exact spot of the stampede, and NOT ask any questions about it?
Here’s my favorite stupid thing about Scar and his plan.
When Simba reappears, Scar changes his story. When Mufasa died, he told everyone that Simba died too. But then Simba reappears and he’s like, “Tell them who killed Mufasa!” And not only does Simba for some stupid reason say it was his doing, but none of the lionesses even bother scratching their heads. Not even one of them thought, Wait, so Mufasa and Simba both died, but now Simba’s alive and it’s his fault Mufasa died? At least one of the lionesses, particularly Simba’s mother, should have said, “Simba loved his father! He also would never murder anyone for any reason. He’s not that type. I call bullshit!”
Nope. Everyone just buys everything Scar ever says ever, just because. It’s only when Scar outright admits his guilt does the tide turn. SERIOUSLY?? He had to spell it out for everyone for them to catch on? Also, why the hell would he ever admit his guilt in the first place?
Lastly, let’s talk about his demise. Continuing the tradition of everyone believing what Scar says, when Scar says the hyenas are the enemy, they immediately turn on him. It’s seriously just a minute or two from the moment Scar says that to when they decide to eat him. Really? I know the hyenas aren’t that intelligent, but I’ve never met anyone so stupid that they hear one, tiny insulting thing from someone (who’s in distress, by the way), and they choose to believe it so strongly they’d literally RIP SOMEONE APART for it just one minute later. There are so many logical fallacies in this movie I’m baffled. I’m still not even done.
TIMON AND PUMBAA
Simba’s father dies right in front of him. He wanders into the desert, practically giving up on life. That’s when Timon and Pumbaa appear. They don’t have any concern for Simba, only finally helping Simba when they figure out they can have a lion for a bodyguard. When they wake Simba, he depressingly walks away, and THEN they show concern. Oh wait, only Pumbaa does. Timon outright says he doesn’t care what’s wrong. In addition to that, Timon encourages Simba to turn his back on the world. Simba says he was taught otherwise, but all it takes is a catchy song for Simba to completely accept Timon’s worldview.
Let’s recap. Timon and Pumbaa show no concern until they choose to use Simba for protection. Next, Timon outright says he cares nothing for Simba’s troubles, then brainwashes Simba to turn his back on the world.
The movie actually tries to get the audience to think that Simba made the right choice here. Why else would we have the Hakuna Matata song if it wasn’t? It’s only when Nala reappears is Hakuna Matata challenged. When Simba tries to defend himself with Hakuna Matata, Nala responds with, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
It is completely out of character for Timon and Pumbaa to help Simba at the end of the movie. Perhaps more out of character for Timon, but it still applies to them both. Not only are those two selfish and proud of it, but they outright tell Simba that they don’t care what he’s been through, and they only befriended him to have a lion bodyguard. It makes no sense that these two would come to Simba’s aid. Timon probably figured Simba would give them their own province if he became king.
I don’t want to make it sound like this movie has no redeeming qualities. It just has very few. The biggest one, by far, is the execution of the storytelling. The music and the visuals. This movie is so well made, I’m still impressed with it. I love all the songs (even “Hakuna Matata” and “I Can’t Wait to be King”) and sometimes even listen to the soundtrack in my spare time. I didn’t admire these things so much as a kid, but after 20 years of seeing far more terrible movies than good ones, I can’t help but respect the sheer artistic craft behind The Lion King‘s filmmaking. Too bad the characters and plot are unbearable.
I will admit that I really like Pumbaa. It’s obvious that he has a big heart, and Timon is just a horrible influence on him. His heart is so big, in fact, that right after Nala tried to eat him, and Simba says Nala’s his best friend, he very politely and genuinely says, “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Sure, it’s because Pumbaa’s really dumb, but I still can’t help but love his kind nature.
As a child, the stampede scene was just another suspenseful scene. It had little effect on me emotionally. But, having watched the movie recently to make this article, I almost couldn’t watch that scene at all. For some reason, it made me want to cry, and it made me have a personal hatred for Scar putting Simba through that. I really felt for Mufasa, as a father, trying everything he can to save his baby (or, cub). I guess that’s an achievement on the filmmakers’ part, having effectively crafted the scene to make the audience feel the terror that both Simba and his father feel.
Overall, though, it’s a shit movie. It would have been better as a silent movie. It should have solely been a visual masterpiece. Had they done that, The Lion King would be one of my favorites, but the plot and characters, and even some of the comedic moments, were just awful.