The Lion King 2019 includes – and improves – a Scar subplot that Disney removed from the original movie. In his incredibly detailed CGI remake, director Jon Favreau closely replicates the classic animated film, which famously follows the young lion prince Simba’s adventures (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) after he is exiled due to his evil uncle’s (Jeremy Irons) desire for the throne. Most of the remake’s characters stay true to their original counterparts – except for Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who gets something of a makeover.
Creepier, malevolent, and less theatrical than the animated usurper, Ejiofor’s Scar also features a newly embellished backstory. Indeed, Scar implies that his namesake injury resulted from challenging his brother and king, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). Furthermore, the villain hints that his lust for Sarabi (Alfre Woodard) played a part in this confrontation. This “courtship” is something that Scar resumes after his brother’s death in The Lion King 2019, where he threatens Sarabi with the Pride’s starvation if she refuses to submit to him.
This might seem like a modern addition to an iconic story, yet Scar’s lechery actually has long been part of The Lion King‘s history. Disney removed similar scenes during production of the original movie, entitled “The Madness of King Scar,” where the increasingly deranged monarch sought to secure his own dynasty with a mate. But instead of Sarabi, the Disney classic initially saw Scar thirsting for Nala (Moira Kelly), which partly explains why she fled the Pride Lands in the first place. Since many rulers were/are focused on their own dynasties, Scar’s search for a wife and heir is a logical and compelling dimension to explore in any version of The Lion King. Indeed, the essence of this subplot was later reworked for the award-winning musical adaptation. Yet it’s clear that Jon Favreau and writer Jeff Nathanson have perfected the idea in their remake.
Certainly, the fact that Scar’s predatory nature was downplayed is an immediate improvement. As per the movie’s storyboards in the mid-1990s, Scar was set to try and force himself upon Nala, singing that his “cylinder’s firing with fervor” in a reprise of “Be Prepared”. Nala refuses him, but an amused Scar chillingly warns her that he always gets what he desires. Audiences – or more importantly, family audiences – understand how maniacal Scar is because he murdered his brother. As such, there’s no need for the film to demonstrate the further reaches of Scar’s depravity in this way.
But the most important choice made in The Lion King 2019 is the switching of Nala and Sarabi. It’s undoubtedly horrible to watch Sarabi being blackmailed by Scar in the new movie, but at least it is without the uncomfortable age gap that separates Nala and the evil king. Though such a dalliance might occur on the real African Savana, it would be distressing to watch a talking, hyper-real Scar try to take advantage of the much-younger Nala – especially after many recent revelations about predators in positions of power.
Furthermore, the tension between Scar and Sarabi adds sense of history to their characters and helps illuminate a previously unknown backstory. Indeed, its rather fitting that the power-obsessed Scar covets a lion who already sat at the same throne that he is so desperate to secure for himself. If the new movie had paired Scar with Nala – as per the initial plan – these fresh dimensions would remain unexplored. Fans and critics are divided on whether Favreau’s version of The Lion King was all that necessary, given its closeness to the animated predecessor. Nevertheless, it’s pleasing that– with this reworked Scar subplot and several other flourishes – Disney have found new avenues to explore in their retelling of The Lion King, for audiences both new and old to enjoy.
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