Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of THE LION KING

The Lion King, rated PG
** ½

The Lion King is a remake of the popular 1994 animated film, which is also a successful stage musical. The film, being referred to as “live action”, is entertaining and the computer-generated imagery (GGI) is incredible. However, the film comes across as a bit flat, without emotion or as much of the humor of the original. In addition, there are scenes that are dark and violent that will be scary for young children.
The film was directed by Emmy nominee Jon Favreau (Dinner for Five, The Jungle Book, Iron Man, Chef). The screenplay was written by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can). The film had a budget of approximately $250 million, and had an opening weekend gross in the U.S. of $191 million.
This film basically follows the storyline of the original film. Simba is the King’s son and future king of Pride Rock. JD McCrary voices the young Simba, and Golden Globe winner Donald Glover (Atlanta), the older Simba. Simba wants to grow up too quickly, and as a result, doesn’t always do what his father Mufasa, voiced by Oscar nominee James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), wants him to do, which inevitably gets him into trouble. Nala, voiced by Beyoncé, is Simba’s best friend.
Scar, voiced by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), is the King’s jealous brother, who wants to be King. We see him mislead Simba on a few occasions because has a plan to make himself the tribe’s leader, which calls for collaborating with a pack of hyenas.
I enjoyed the film, but there was just something missing from making it a truly special film. For one, there was not as much humor in this version as there was in the original. The exception was Timon, voiced by two-time Emmy nominee Billy Eichner (Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street) and Pumbaa, voiced by Emmy nominee Seth Rogan (Da Ali G Show). The music, even the songs you loved from the original film, seemed to fall flat. And perhaps most of all, the film seemed to lack in emotion.
The musical score is by Hans Zimmer, ten-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Lion King, with songs by Elton John, Tim Rice and some new music as well.
Content concerns in the film include dark and violent scenes that will be too scary for young children. Themes include the relationship between a father and a son, sacrificing for others, deception, and guilt.
The Lion King is a beautiful and entertaining film, but falls short of being truly special. The CGI is incredible, as is the cinematography by six-time Oscar nominee Caleb Deschanel (The Natural, The Passion of the Christ), and the film is probably worth seeing just for those reasons.


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ DR. STRANGE

dr-strangeDr. Strange, rated PG-13
****

Dr. Strange is the fourteenth film to be released by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is directed and co-written (with C. Robert Cargill) by Scott Derrickson. The film is based on the Marvel Comics character created in 1963 by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. The film had a budget of approximately $165 million. It’s designed as the Doctor Strange franchise-launcher, with sequels to follow.

Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) stars as the rich, egotistical New York City neurosurgeon Stephen Strange. Due to distracted driving, he gets into a terrible car accident that ruins his hands, and as a result, his career as a surgeon. He becomes even more cruel and withdrawn, lashing out at ex-lover and co-worker Christine Palmer (Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams).

Strange seeks healing for his hands. He is given a tip about a secret sect in Nepal led by a sorcerer referred to as the Ancient One (Best Actress Oscar winner Tilda SwInton). (Note: in the comic which debuted in 1963, the Ancient One is played by an older Tibetan male). The Ancient One opens Strange up to worlds he never believed existed as she introduces him to the spirit world. Previously, he only believed in a material world. Some of what you see may remind you of Inception and the Matrix films. Strange is exposed to the Mirror Dimension, in which the magic doesn’t affect people in the real world and the laws of physics don’t apply. We see Strange learn how to bend time and space.

Working with The Ancient One and mentoring Strange are Wong (Benedict Wong) and Karl Mordo (Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor).  The villain in the story is played by Kaecilus (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One who steals pages out of an ancient book in the opening scene.

The film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and the intense crash scene. As far as content concerns for Christians, Cumberbatch has stated the spiritualism of Doctor Strange is what appealed to him the most about the role. Ted Baehr of MovieGuide.org, a site that I’ve consulted for years, has issued the below warning about the film:

Doctor Strange is a dangerous introduction to demonic occult deception….The Bible clearly warns against the kind of occult practices and sorcery the hero in this movie learns to do in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and Galatians 5:20. Also, in the movie, the hero’s New Age occult guru teaches that there may be no afterlife, that death is truly the end, and that this is a good thing”.

Although I respect Dr. Baehr’s warning, I felt that the film did include some Christian themes of humility and sacrificing yourself for the good of others; it is basically a good vs. evil story. The evil offered eternal life, just as the serpent offered to Adam and Eve in the garden.  I saw the film in IMAX 3-D, and felt that it was worth the additional cost. The 3-D brought out the film’s excellent CGI (computer generated imagery). It is a visually stunning film and I would recommend you seeing it in 3-D.

I thought Cumberbatch was superb as Doctor Strange, and the supporting cast of Ejiofor, Wong, Swinton and McAdams solid. The film also includes some excellent humor and interesting details, such as a man on a bus reading The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley. First published in 1954, it details his experiences when taking mescaline.

I enjoyed the film’s costumes and Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation. The musical score from Michael Giacchino also added to the enjoyment of the film.  I look forward to additional Dr. Strange films.

And with all Marvel films, don’t forget to wait after the movie. There are two end credits scenes.