The journey to bring Black is King to life began with a largely forgettable live-action The Lion King remake which Beyoncé has used, in conjunction with her album “The Gift“, to create this visual masterpiece. Boasting stellar music, spectacular cinematography and a host of artist cameos this is a timely visual album not to be missed.
The heavily stylised visuals paint a vibrant picture of black beauty that makes every single frame a mesmerising work of art. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, a true masterpiece of the craft. Each musical piece comes with its own setting, backdrop and visual flair that enhances the overall visual experience and still all feels connected. The crew of cinematographers that have bought these visuals to life have done an incredible job at making it all come together in a way that tells a compelling visual journey. From a sweeping desert and rushing river to a lavish mansion and rustic warehouse, there is awe-inspiring beauty everywhere you look.
The vibrant settings are just one way the film produces stunning visuals, the other being how it highlights black beauty in a way that complements the story and speaks volumes without saying a word. The visuals of black individuals and families act as a stunning tribute and celebration of African culture and tradition as well as the generations of black ancestry. When combined with all other elements of this project, from the story to the song lyrics, it’s clear that Beyoncé has centred all aspects of this film around showcasing the beauty of blackness. The beauty she is highlighting is not just focused on visual beauty, but the flawless cinematography that has stemmed from the overall focus of this film is unbelievable.
The film interprets the narrative, themes and messages of The Lion King and applies them to the life of a young boy who is guided by his ancestors on a journey of discovery to achieve his destiny of reclaiming his home and becoming king. It’s a narrative that is tied together through visual storytelling and is accompanied by some brief dialogue by Beyoncé and from The Lion King, just as they appear in the album. I feel like the core narrative becomes less transparent as the film goes on but the themes and the messages that are being conveyed are clear as day the whole way through. This isn’t a major criticism, it’s more of an observation that over time the message of the film becomes more powerful than strictly following a character’s journey.
Being a visual album, the music is the defining element that brings everything together and guides you through the story. I really like the album which the film is based on, so I knew going into it that I would get a tonne of enjoyment out of the songs, if nothing else. However, the visual elements of the film really enhanced every song to the point where even the few that were just good, were made great thanks to the all-encompassing atmosphere of what’s happening on screen. The choreography coupled with the costuming turns each musical set-piece into an event that signifies a core point in the journey. If you take the idea of this being a “film” out of it, it’s still a captivating visual album from Beyoncé.
As the icing on the cake, the actor and music artist cameos really add something special to the film. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but there’s something about seeing a couple of these artists show up at key moments that makes the whole thing a bit more grand and, at times, beautiful.
In the end, Black is King is a spectacular work of art draped in the beauty of its visuals and timely subject matter. It’s an achievement in cinematography where every shot is breathtaking. The way the African diaspora is represented through the story, visuals and music is just beautiful. Beyoncé does not miss a beat with this visual album, a must-watch on Disney Plus.