Black is King


Beyonce expresses the Circle of Life in her often dazzling visual album.

I might have been a bit soft on my negative response towards Jon Favreau’s remake of the Disney animated classic “The Lion King” from last year. It grossed over a billion dollars, being under the Disney label, despite the fact that it never offered anything fresh or original, and weakened the dialogue that made the animated feature powerful. To quote the animated film critic Jay Sherman: “If it’s a remake of a classic, rent the classic.”

Beyonce, who voiced Nala in the remake, directs, sings, produces, writes, and stars in “Black is King,” a visual album made for Disney+ and inspired by the film and the soundtrack she curated. In the movie version, there’s a little African boy, inspired by Simba, who goes through the nearly same youth and hardships as the cub. This time, Beyonce, plays the female version of Mufasa, who wishes to guide the cub on the right path.

The visual world of “Black is King” is astonishing. You often see people painted aqua (nearly making themselves look like an African Blue Man Group), a synchronized swimming routine, a human chess board, people wearing plants, a basket floating in a river and down a waterfall, and a man in hay clothing climbing on a car like a lion. Music videos are able to be as visionary as movies, and through Beyonce’s eyes, it’s unbelievable.

The themes are also cultural and passionate. The human version of “The Lion King” features pimps, elaborated costumes, colorful lights, and its combination of rap, hip-hop, and pop. And archival voice recordings from the 2019 version has to support the narrative.

Not every music segment is interesting, which detracted my attention from the film, but “Black is King” has more passion and love than the remake did. It’s neither racist nor insensitive towards the black culture and their traditions. In fact, they resonate with the true reason why we loved the animated movie. The animated feature was about life and choices, and this visual album expresses its love for them.

Beyonce is able to narrate and sing with such radiant life, that it’s no wonder why’s she’s a sensation. She’s directed music videos before, like “Still in Love, Kissing You” or “Countdown,” but if you really look at how she handles this entry, she could step up for game by feature films. She could expand her horizons by expressing cultures, people, and directions. She has the potential to do so, and I believe she can.

For now, she paints “Black is King” like a portrait, which laughs in the face of danger, and should remind fans of when she was part of Destiny’s Child. It doesn’t compare with the recent Disney+ success of the recorded version of “Hamilton,” but it does possess beauty.

“Hakuna Matata.”


Available on Disney+

Categories: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Music

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