Tag Archives: James Earl Jones

The Lion King Movie Review

Twenty five years ago, The Lion King hit theaters. To say that it was a hit was an understatement. It is a masterpiece that to this day is loved, treasured and referenced.

Yesterday, the reboot was released. Directed by Jon Favreau, the new film follows the narrative of it’s animated predecessor. Simba (voiced by Donald Glover as an adult and JD McCrary as a child) is the son and heir to Pride Rock. His parents, Mufasa (James Earl Jones, the only holdover from the original film) and Sarabi (Afre Woodard) are King and Queen, respectively.

As a young cub, as many young are, Simba is energetic, curious and doesn’t exactly follow his parent’s instructions. Unfortunately, he gets his best friend Nala (voiced by Beyonce as an adult and Shahadi Wright Joseph as a child) in trouble as well.

Neither knows that Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has a chip on shoulder. Scar’s plan to remove all obstacles to the throne nearly succeeds as Simba runs from fear and shame. He is befriended by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), a couple of misfits who only know freedom and a boundary-less life.

Then Simba is reminded of who he is. Can he step and be King or will he continue to run from his past?

If I had to rank all of the live action reboots that Disney has released over the past few years, this film would easily rank as #1. Favreau and his creative team had a herculean task on their hands: create a new film while showing deference to the 1994 animated film.

In my opinion, they succeeded. I felt a chill down my back as the opening number started. The animation, if it can be described as that, looked more like a documentary on the National Geographic channel than a film with a fictional narrative. I loved the cast, who, like the creative team, were able to put their own spin on their characters while showing deference to the actors who lent their voices to the 1994 film.

If I had to choose my favorite things about this film, I would choose two. The first is Nala and Sarabi. In the 1994 film, Sarabi is a glorified background character. In this film, Sarabi is more prominent and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Nala is the power behind the throne and a warrior in her own right.

The second is Timon and Pumbaa. These characters bring a lightness and a comedic element to a narrative is full of psychological symbolism and heavy with the ideas of fate and responsibility.

I absolutely recommend it.

The Lion King is presently in theaters.

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Star Wars Character Review: Darth Vader

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy. For this post, I will also be briefly delving into some of the narratives in the prequels.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In previous posts, I have examined Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (the late Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (the late Alec Guinness).In this post, I will be writing about the series’s most iconic character, Darth Vader.

Every hero needs a villain. In whatever world that hero inhabits, the villain is the one who keeps the hero on their toes and challenges them as they go on their journey.   There is no more iconic film villain than Darth Vader. Physically acted by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, Vader is the ultimate villain. Physically imposing and a master of the dark side of the force, he is the overlord of the empire.

Darth Vader started his life as Anakin Skywalker, a young man who was blessed with force sensitivity and discovered by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). He would grow up and marry Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) and father Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. An enthusiastic, slightly hotheaded young man with an eye for adventure in his early years (much like his son a generation later), Anakin turns to the dark side, looses his humanity and becomes Darth Vader.

For most of Episode 4 (A New Hope) and part of Episode 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), Vader is the standard villain. Then something begins to change. He begins to sense that Luke is also force sensitive and pursues him with the end goal of turning him to the dark side.  The infamous “Luke, I am your father” scene is one of the greatest plot twists in all filmdom, in my opinion.

In episode 6 (Return of the Jedi), Vader finally redeems himself and turns back into Anakin after killing the Emperor while saving his son. Revealing another one of filmdom’s great plot twists that Luke and Leia are twins (and turning their kiss in the Empire Strikes Back into a moment of incest), Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader dies and is finally at peace.

A villain should more than Snidely Whiplash. A more interesting and well-rounded the villain creates a greater threat to the hero, compelling them to act to defeat the villain. A mustache twirling villain who uses the hero’s loved ones/love interest to draw them out into a fight is boring and predictable. A villain that is complicated, that is motivated by more than the standard villain motives, now that is going to grab an audience and keep them wanting more.

To sum it up: A good story deserves a good villain. But if the villain is 2D, predictable and boring, then there is no point to the story or the journey that the hero will go on to defeat the villain. In creating the iconic Darth Vader, George Lucas challenged future writers, regardless of genre to create villains that excite the audience and encourage them to cheer on the hero as they defeat the villain.

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