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Wick's Review

Created Mar 14, 2011 11:32PM PST • Edited Jul 30, 2015 10:04AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Perhaps the most incredible nature documentary ever, The Last Lions features individualized lions and buffaloes engaged in an intricate plot worthy of scripted drama. It also provides unprecedented intimacy with the King of Beasts, making it breathtaking entertainment and potent political motivator. Wow.

    The heartrending deaths and savage killings in The Last Lions will be unbearable for many humans. Ironic, since filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert make a convincing case that the encroachment of people drives much of the slaughter. Thus we shouldn’t avert our gaze, metaphorically if not literally.

    Don’t cry for the African lion, the movie seems to say. They’re too proud, too strong, too resourceful for that. Instead it celebrates them by documenting the profound challenges of an amazing lioness and her cubs.

    Dubbed Ma di Tau (“Mother of Lions”), she loses her mate, battles an invading pride, scarring another dominant lioness in the process, fords a fearsome river, engages in another epic war with a herd of water buffalo and its dominant bull, and finally emerges as not just Mother of Lions but Queen of the Beasts.

    These battles and adventures are so connected and personal that the movie becomes hard to believe. I found myself willing to suspend disbelief since the story is so engrossing, whatever its real life underpinnings.

    National Geographic sponsored the Jouberts in making this important, insightful and inspirational movie. Thus the King of Nature Documentaries has given us this amazing movie about the King of Beasts. Nature lovers and those who appreciate epic toughness should find a way to see it.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Beasts rule.

    • Ma di Tau: A perfect lioness, sleek, strong, savvy, stalwart. Seeing her hunt and fight is awe inspiring, especially when she’s in full roar. Seeing her pick up her cubs with her huge mouth is wonderfully maternal.
    • Silver Eye: A fearsome lioness who targets Ma di Tau and her cubs, Silver Eye got her nickname after Ma di Tau blinded her in one eye. Yes, these two females have issues.
    • Scarface: A bull water buffalo, Scarface indeed has a clearly recognizable scar across his broad face. He also seems to have an animus for Ma di Tau and her cubs.
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Good 3.0

    Shoulda been an female narrator in a movie about a Mother of Lions. What, Helen Mirren was busy?

    That said, Jeremy Irons does fine, his dulcet baritone a warm voice-over.

  8. Really Great 4.5

    Hard-to-believe dramatic intricacy and mildly unctuous narration challenge the film’s perfection. Unfair perhaps, since it is apparently rFactor 1.0, completely natural. Nonetheless the perception nags.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Perfect sound as much as music: Beverly Joubert captures the lions’ native sounds, from awesome battle roars down to touchingly affectionate calls.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Opens with an otherworldly shot of our world, as God must see it: the whole earth, its atmosphere visible yet transparent, clouds clinging, oceans blue, lights twinkling. It’s that last, the unmistakable sign of civilization, the apotheosis of fire, the peoples’ possession that marks the limit of the last lions’ kingdom.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.1

    While the violence is indeed savage, it’s less than one might suppose. This is partly because the filmmakers cut the toughest scenes, some of which are on YouTube. It’s more because the lions and buffalo seem to be as much about posturing as attacking. Once dominance or deterrence is established, they often sheath their claws or stay their charge. Sophisticated, that.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Savage 3.8
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.4
  18. Natural 1.0

    National Geographic wouldn’t fudge the truth, would they? Assuming not, I’m leaving the Reality score at 1x, or Completely Natural.

    That said, it is literally incredible that the Jouberts could film one lioness clawing out the eye of another, and then film the half-blinded lioness later conducting extended raids on the first lioness. Just as it is incredible that one distinctive bull buffalo would repeatedly attack the heroine lioness, only to have her single him out of the herd for counter attack, all caught by the Joubert’s camera and microphone.

    NatGeo, you better not be messing with us.

    More important is the very real apocalypse befalling African lions. Their population has plummeted by 430,000 over the past 60 years to just 20,000 now. The movie suggests how habitat destruction caused by the encroachment of people drives much of this. While lions aren’t yet officially endangered, they are most certainly vulnerable. Happily, proceeds from The Last Lions ticket sales go towards NatGeo’s conservation mission. Want to help more? Donate to Cause an Uproar.

  19. Circumstantial Natural 1.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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