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With its mythic story of life and death, not to mention a cast of lions and hyenas, The Lion King was an unlikely candidate for a photo-realistic treatment. But the new film leaps into naturalism, with dazzling authenticity as computer-generated herds of zebras, elephants and antelope stride across the screen against a wide African vista, toward Pride Rock, where King Mufasa stands waiting to hold up his cub, Simba.

The opening scene echoes the start of the original almost shot for shot. It has adorable animals and rivals Bambi in its moving death of a parent storyline. It adds a couple of helpful scenes and two ordinary songs.

For what it's worth: it's never too late

This is not a visionary, artistic reimagining as the Broadway version was. There, director Julie Taymor brilliantly added more African-infused music, masks and fantastical giant puppets. This film, however, is a cautious remake which takes its cue from its life-like visuals. Some actors have a more realistic delivery than others, which makes the tone a bit erratic.

But if the new Lion King is not as seamless as the earlier versions, it is full of adventure and is just as sweetly engaging. That distraction soon falls away, as the power of the story takes over. This Scar still schemes to kill Simba and inherit the throne, but he is the character most radically changed from the original.

The new Scar has gaunt flanks, a ravaged face and a mangy coat. Ejiofor speaks his lines in a sinister growl that is almost too subdued and real for this outsized production. James Earl Jones, the only actor returning from the first film, was apparently irreplaceable as Mufasa. Jones reliably brings credibility to this larger-than-life character, as Mufasa teaches a young Simba JD McCrary about the cycles of nature, the duties of a king and the way his ancestors will look down from the stars and guide him.

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Eichner, who nearly runs off with the film, has a tone of witty cynicism running through his lines. John Oliver tells deliberately hokey jokes as Zazu the hornbill, flying around and hovering protectively over Simba.

A New Watchlist

Like Ejiofor, Oliver talks his songs more than he sings them, which works perfectly well. But first he endures some extremely scary action scenes, including one in which the vicious hyenas chase him and Nala, his friend and future love, into a tunnel. Throughout the film, Favreau and the great cinematographer Caleb Deschanel mimic the camera movements of live-action films. That approach can be felt most emphatically as we see a terrified Simba race toward us in the tunnel, or get caught up in a wildebeest stampede, as Mufasa rushes to save him.

After all that tragedy, the film makes a smart turn to comedy as Simba runs off and meets his new friends.

A Culture Worth Saving

Casting Billy Eichner as Timon, the wisecracking meerkat, and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, the good-hearted but flatulent warthog, are among the film's happiest choices. Of course, he will come around. The reason is that a culture is usually defined under the context of a group of people. So it makes sense that when a language is spoken only by a small number of people, it may die out with time passing by. There are always policies that encourage the reservation of endangered languages.

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  8. However, Times columnist Philip Howard says that language should not be controlled by the politicians but is in the hand of people. In my opinion, it is true that globalization and urbanization make it difficult for every single language to be reserved over generations. Learning other languages becomes inevitable to meet the need for people from different language backgrounds to communicate.

    Thus, languages spoken by small group of people become less spoken. However, the significance of languages is not just for communication.

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    Languages could also denote an intimate relationship within a community. It could be the reason why people always find it hard to translate some words in their mother tongues to other languages. While it is true that which language to speak is determined by people ourselves, it is better if we try to reserve the dialects and mother tongues.

    Yes, maybe dialects are not so important in the fast development of globalization; however, they characterized our past. Indeed, it is hard to preserve all the language in the world. There are many languages only spoken by a small group of people in some conners of the world. In my opinion, the reason for the language disappearing is not only that the people in that area is reducing, but also that there is no such a completed system for these languages. Many languages and dialects may just be spoken by a group of people but they do not have characters or symbols to represent their language precisly. Thus, no one outside this group of people could learn these language except by living together with them.

    Hence, the preservation becomes almost impossible. What you said in the article is very true.

    We can see minority languages and dialects disappear unnoticed. Take myself as an example.