The Last Lions

The most powerful force in nature is a mother’s love.” — tagline of The Last Lions

There’s something special about nature documentaries. The patience and the skill needed to capture a slice of life in the wild are something we can really admire. And yet we often overlook these films in favor of quick fun, never fully realizing their value in entertainment.

How many times have you changed the channel when you came across a documentary? Be honest.

Created by Dereck and Beverly Joubert and narrated by Jeremy Irons (who was the voice of Scar in The Lion King), this 2011 documentary is done in the traditional and nostalgic style of old documentaries. The Last Lions is one of those gripping films that really get you invested in them. It makes you wonder if there could really be something as human as the power of love among animals, hidden away with the lions somewhere in Africa. The cuteness factor of the lion cubs in it is off the charts. Who can resist those adorable murder mittens?

And they’re on the brink of disappearing from the face of this planet. There used to be hundreds of thousands of lions in the wild just half a century ago. Now, there are only about twenty thousand left. The ecological impact of safari hunts and poaching and human expansion is severe.

The story follows Ma di Tau, or Mother of Lions, a lioness who uses every last bit of strength and the advantage her instincts give her in order to protect her cubs from any danger or enemy. She has lost her mate, and has been driven from the pack with her two cubs. It is an epic tale of survival in spite of the harshest conditions, a dramatic, yet tragically realistic and naturalistic story. Turning her back on her past, the daring and resilient lioness crosses a crocodile infested river delta and defends her cubs from all kinds of threats, such as the cub-killing lioness Silver Eye.

Things don’t go very well for Ma di Tau. Seriously, if you plan to watch this with your kids, you might want to reconsider. Nature is brutal, and boy does it show!

The cinematography evokes many emotions in the viewer. The mood dictates the imagery. The dramatic scenes are appropriately dark, and emotional ones are filled with a warm tone. Every angle paints a beautiful picture of Africa. The documentary is somewhat stylized to appeal to empathy instead of being as objective as possible. It doesn’t feel unnatural, but it’s definitely meant to give the animals a more “human” touch. It’s certainly an immersive experience, in any case.

The accompanying music enhances those feelings, while the superb voice-over of Jeremy Irons gives the movie an ornate and delicate feel. Sometimes, though, the scenes we are shown feel manipulated in order to fit a narrative. We are being told what is going on, but not shown. Does it lessen the impact of the movie? Well, it depends. We feel it’s entirely subjective. It is an emotional, suspenseful account. If you want an objective documentary, then maybe this isn’t a movie for you.

The Last Lions is a story focused on the survival of one family unit, but it can easily represent the fight of an entire species, or the struggle of an entire planet. Just like the lioness rises and wins her fight against all odds, so can we. When we have something worth fighting for, we can achieve the impossible and fix the ecological damage we’re responsible for. We can bring back the lions.

IMDb 4.1 /5
4.1 out of 5
Rotten Tomatoes 4.3 /5
4.3 out of 5
Rogue Cinema 4.1 /5
4.1 out of 5

Combined average

4.17out of 5

4.17 out of 5
Category Documentary

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