The Last Lions Movie Review (2011)
I give this film a 9 for its technical mastery, its obvious good intentions and the gorgeous cinematography. However, I’m afraid my immersion in the film’s world, and my “suspension of disbelief” were sorely tested by the filmmakers’ choices. Many audience members know that wildlife filmmakers take tremendous liberties with their story arcs, their substitution of one animal for another and their consistency of time, place and sound. These are necessary leaps that are simply required by the difficulty of the genre. But from very early on, when a huge elephant is shown advancing on the camera and stomping the ground angrily, and we are led by the saccharine narration to believe that it is trying to assault a pair of lion cubs… they lost me. You never see the cubs and the elephant in the same shot. Was the elephant even in the same country as the cubs? This technique is used to extremes — the lion looks off to the left and you are told she is seeing her former mate who has been horribly mauled by competing male lions. But you never see her and the male lion in the same frame at this point (after seeing them – or is it them? – frolicking together earlier before the mauling). So did she ever really see him again? There are countless similar liberties, but I can see I’m sounding like a sourpuss so I’ll stop here.
In any case, the film is beautiful, the intimate view of Mother Nature’s cruelties and gifts is unique and moving. You will leave thanking God you weren’t born a lion, and you will have a new or renewed concern for their well-being. My only wish is that the filmmakers hadn’t expected so little of me as a viewer. I think you can enjoy the film and appreciate its mission and message even if you do see the flaws I saw. In fact, I hope I’m wrong, and I hope to read that the filmmakers did use only one lioness as the “star,” so to speak. But go see it. You won’t regret it. And give to support National Geographic’s efforts in protecting lions and their habitat!