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Do we need a remake of The Lion King?

The only rule of economics I know is #blowitifyougotit, but apparently one of the most basic ones is understanding wants versus needs.
Disney's remake of The Lion King hits theatres this week. photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc

The only rule of economics I know is #blowitifyougotit, but apparently one of the most basic ones is understanding wants versus needs.

A need is something you must have to survive (or thrive) while a want is just something that you would like to have. So, the question this week is not, "Do we need a scene-for-scene 'live-action' The Lion King remake?" but rather, "Do we even want one?"

Disney thinks we do, or more likely they don't give a shit either way because they put Beyoncé in the movie and that will guarantee 10 zillion ticket sold, almost as many soundtrack album sales, and as many branded necklaces, T-shirts, earbuds, make-up bags, and Happy Meal toys the kids in the overseas factories can pump out.

Certainly, Beyoncé is a big deal and it appears Disney/The Lion King is also trying its best to honour African culture this time around. But is the movie any good? Or more importantly, how does it hold up to the original cartoon version?

Unless you are a cinematic tech nerd, the answer is probably "underwhelming." On the technical side, director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) did something completely new with this flick: he built the entire movie—characters, rocks, trees, sun, backgrounds, bugs, everything—in 3D virtual reality and then had "cameramen" enter that VR world to film the action as if it were really happening. (There's an entire Wired magazine feature about this if you want to do a deep dive—it's crazy).

So the movie looks great, almost like a nature doc. The story is essentially untouched (Hamlet, but with animals) but for some reason it never quite hits the emotional resonance of the original.

Perhaps because this version is too close to the one most of the world remembers (is the collective unconscious at play here?). Or maybe it's that the animals' faces lack the emotional range of animated characters? There's no exaggeration, no overly raised eyebrows or dramatically overdone exhausted collapses... Everything looks a bit too real perhaps, creepily real.

Having said that, the photo realistic lion versus hyena battle royal climax plays pretty incredibly and the voice cast is solid—James Earl Jones, Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Somehow though, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner end up kind of stealing the show as Pumba and Timon, perhaps because they were allowed to improv some new dialogue/jokes? Even if they are fart jokes, at least they feel fresh.

The Lion King is a decent movie—worth watching—but as a movie experience, I don't think it surpasses the cartoon version, and part of that is because underneath all the cool visuals and high-priced voices, you get the feeling this whole endeavour might be more about satisfying Disney's greed than about exposing a new generation to an empowering story and a set of classic songs. But hey, those Happy Meal toys look "collectible," don't they?

The download of the week is a local one: Anthill Film's latest mountain bike flick Return to Earth is now available on iTunes. For their ninth film, Squamish-based Anthill travels to more incredible locations than ever before (Hawaii to Switzerland to Patagonia) and captures some of the world's best riders ripping, flipping, sending and friending.

With a nod to 1960s feelings of lo-fi togetherness (and featuring a title font to match), Return to Earth focuses on the many ways a bike can connect you to nature, each other, and yourself. Highlight segments include a multi-rider dream-line in Oahu and a pack of savage 11-to-14-year-old Sea to Sky kids absolutely shredding the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Anthill always gets you stoked to get on a bike, and this one is well worth the download.

And the soundtrack, heavy on '60s tunes including Steppenwolf, The Beach Boys and a Mamas and the Papas' cover, will certainly introduce some young shredders to a new sound.

It's also a sweet segment to hype up another film, Echo in the Canyon, which comes to the Whistler Village 8 next week. This one is a documentary about the beginnings of L.A.'s Laurel Canyon music scene and how a few bands smoking weed and jamming in their living rooms would change popular music forever.

Music is a need, not a want, and this flick is a must-see for fans of that era, young or old.