For one of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2019, the marketing for The Lion King has been virtually nonexistent up until today. One teaser back in November, and then just…nothing. Until today. And today, they made up for all that with this.
It starts off nice and slow, tingling with suspense: young Simba and Nala are scampering through the Outlands beyond Pride Rock. Hyenas dart around them in the shadows, and the two lion cubs cower as a voice narrates to them about how “life’s not fair” for those who “spend their lives in the dark, begging for scraps”. Then the hyenas approach, and with them comes their leader: Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor). He looks terrifying: the way his tattered ear twitches as he advances on Simba; his ragged and disheveled coat of fur; his cold, malevolent voice. He’s perhaps lacking just a little something of the original, that almost exaggerated Shakespearean vibe to the character as voiced by Jeremy Irons, with his wild black mane and angular shape, but those are minor nitpicks – Scar looks absolutely awesome.
Then the trailer briefly turns into a nature-documentary: Mufasa brings Simba up onto Pride Rock, and in the voice of James Earl Jones tells us how the Pridelands exist in a “delicate balance”, while the music swells up, scenes flash by of Simba playing with other animals (including Zazu, voiced by John Oliver), and antelope prancing around. In this tranquil and idyllic corner of the world, we see Scar’s words made clear: Mufasa’s evil brother is bitterly jealous of this beautiful, bountiful kingdom – must be hard, when you live with a pack of ratty hyenas and your brother is living it up in this exquisitely-lit CGI paradise.
(I am aware of the fact that Mufasa and Scar apparently aren’t brothers, or are brothers, depending on which Disney executive you ask: I’m calling them brothers, for simplicity’s sake).
And, because Disney is evil, they even have the audacity to show us glimpses of a certain scene…hmm, is this a spoiler? Technically, I guess it is, so I won’t clarify exactly what this spoiler is, just that this scene in the trailer happens to involve a canyon, and a herd of stampeding water-buffalo. Yeah, they show us part of that scene.
In a throwback to the original animated feature, there’s a scene of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa walking, while the background behind them changes, and Simba grows older. I’m still left wondering how much of this film will literally just be a copy-and-paste of the original, but, hey, it looks beautiful.
We get our first good look at Nala, voiced by pop icon Beyoncé, and she looks…like a lioness. Not much more to say about her than that. She doesn’t sing, if that’s what you were expecting.
But, on that note, the trailer is not entirely without some lively song-and-dance: it closes, in fact, with Timon and Pumbaa skipping merrily along through the jungle, singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, which is peculiarly hilarious.
It looks good. It looks really good, in fact. There’s an epic quality to all the scenes, or maybe that’s just the brilliant visual effects, but it has beauty and atmosphere. The tone is perfect. A better voice-cast could not have been assembled – though I still have some reservations about Donald Glover voicing Simba himself. The movie looks like it will be incredible – or, at the very least, it looks like it will look incredible.
Trailer Rating: 8/10