Return of the Giant Killers: Africa's Lion Kings, TV review: A beautifully shot but brutal look at the circle of life

The programme documented the lions' day-to-day struggle for food

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The Independent Culture

This spectacular wildlife documentary showed that, contrary to popular belief, Disney’s The Lion King didn’t quite teach me all I needed to know about Africa’s scariest predators.

I knew the girls did the leg work, the blokes got into fights with family members with sometimes fatal consequences (RIP Mufasa) and wildebeests should be avoided, but I’d not seen lions fell elephants. That’s because they don’t, usually, unless food is very, very scarce, like it was when this was filmed on Botswana’s Savuti Marsh. The result made for mesmerisingly gruesome telly.

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Lions don't usually fell elephants unless food is very, very scarce (BBC)

Most of the hour was dedicated to documenting the lions' day-to-day struggle for food, which was dramatic enough. Narrator Imogen Stubbs ensured proceedings were kept theatrical “Lion territory doesn't get much better,” she said, in the same tone Gregg Wallace uses on MasterChef when there’s a danger of a severe soufflé meltdown.

We watched the lions eyeing up the apparent abundance of prey aware that there was probably going to be a spanner in the works soon. She kept mentioning the “coalition of brothers” who turned on each other.

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Young lions honed their hunting technique (BBC)

I pictured the Milibands snarling and scrapping with Ed shouting “Hell yes, I’m tough enough,” before being packed off. I digress, there were also cubs accidentally committing fratricide, the death of the pride's leader and a devastating fire before we got to the crescendo.

And what a finale it was. The slo-mo camera work captured every claw, bite and maul. And the sound guys had gnawing on elephant flesh and bones down to a tee. Make no mistake, this was a beautifully shot, brutal look at the circle of life.

@sally_newall

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