Simba: Fire is a killer. Sometimes, what’s left behind can grow better than the generation before if given the chance.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Lion King was not only the biggest financial success of the year but is also considered the peak of the Disney renaissance. Its animation and grand scale is unprecedented even by today’s standards. Doing a direct-to-video sequel could easily turn out bad. But this movie turned out to have a good deal of effort. It’s certainly not the first movie but it is far from any of the bad Disney sequels out there.
The story is that Simba and Nala have given birth to a young cub named Kiara. Simba shows her the ropes of how to be a good ruler just as his father did. However it turns out there is a villainous group around called the Outsiders. They were a pack of lions that liked Scar’s leadership and vow to take the land back in his name. Their leader named Zira is training her son Kovu so that when he grows up he will kill Simba and ultimately take control. Kiara and Kovu meet and become good friends but their parents tell them that they are destined to be enemies. Years later Kovu seemingly wants to leave the outsiders and join Simba’s pride having saved Kiara’s life as leverage in order to do so. However he is bent on killing Simba when he has the chance. However when he falls in love with Kiara the matter gets complicated.
One of the flaws with this movie is Kovu’s backstory. He’s apparently not Scar’s son although Scar at some point took him in as his own despite the fact that there was nothing showing or even mentioning in the last movie that he did. Kovu also looks relatively the same age as Kiara but mentions that Scar was a part of him despite the fact that Scar was presumably dead around the time Kovu was even born.
The returning characters while not horrible don’t offer all that much new to the movie. Simba is pretty much the overprotective parent (although the scene where he exiles Kovu is a very powerful scene), Nala has little to no role at all, and Timon and Pumba pretty much have their usual antics, which is fine.
The new characters however are where the movie shines. Kovu, Kiara, Zira, Nuka, Vitani, etc. have very unique designs and their voice actors bring this very likable life into the movie that genuinely makes you feel for what they are faced with.
The rest of the animation is decent. The line work and the backgrounds look good especially good for a movie with half the budget of its predecessor and both aspects are done in such an authentic way that captures the feel of the first movie. However it’s can be distracting to the point that you may find yourself comparing it to the animation of the first movie.
The songs are very enjoyable. We Are One is a very hummable tune, Upendi has a nice rhythm to it, Not one of Us really strikes a heavy note in its visuals, lyrics, and tune. He lives in You is actually a homage to the song in the Broadway version and it’s a very solid rendition. It also establishes the movie’s message very well and breathes a new life into what is a near-identical opening from the first.
Lion King 2 is very middle-of-the-road when it comes to Disney sequels. It’s has a fair share of average factors but it does have its fair share of good aspects as well. If it were a theatrical release it would have gotten a much worse rep. But considering what is probably not a lot of time and money to put together it’s surprisingly a lot more than what one might expect.