The Jungle Book Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
This live-action adaptation of a Disney’s classic, might be far off from the original source material, but it is an incredible improvement to the 1967 animated movie.
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, Scarlett Johansson & Christopher Walken.
Run Time: 106 min.
US Release: 15 April 2016
UK Release: 15 April 2016
German Release: 14 April 2016
If you want to read my review for Disney’s 1967 animated version scroll to the end.
Jon Favreau returns to Hollywood, to direct a big studio picture and it really pays off! The Jungle Book is one of many Disney films that are currently being re-adapted into live-action movies and Favreau managed to hit the right cords, because this just wasn’t a mere remake but rather an improvement to the classic tale Disney told in the mid 60’s. This motion picture depicts the jungle and it’s animals in such detail, like we have never seen before and expands on what we already know about Mowgli’s adventure.
Mowgli (Sethi), the man-cub, is a young boy raised by a loving wolf mother (Nyong’o) and trained in the ways of a predator by Bagheera (Kingsley), the black panther. When Shere Kahn (Elba), a Bengalese tiger, returns to the jungle fully recuperated from his injuries sustained by men, he promises to kill the man cub once the water truce ends. Mowgli decides to leave the jungle to save his pack and sets out on an adventure that will make him cross paths with Baloo (Murray) the bear, Kaa (Johansson) the snake and Louie (Walken), a giant ape.
Let me start off with what I like about this live-action remake. As with Cinderella, which came out the previous year, Disney refrains from making too many "big" changes in their original account of Rudyard Kipling's story but still makes enough small ones, giving this film a fresh feeling. I was staring at the screen in awe when I saw how the trees, creepers, and the animal kingdom came to live and I adore how dark the story can get at times - lets face it, this is a jungle with dangerous animals, not everything will be pink and fluffy! This remake manages to make me feel like a child again, while at the same time it feels as if it is an exploration of new accounts,from the tale I saw on VHS as a kid. What I like most, is the extended playtime that expands on Mowgli’s story.
The only thing I have a problem with story-wise, is the fact that I can’t help but notice that this movie has no heart of its own. It takes the spirit of the classic ’67 animation and repackages it into a prettier body. That does annoy me heavily, as it had the potential to stand away from its hand-drawn sibling but instead, it chose to simply “upgrade” the previous feature.
One of the biggest issues I had with Disney’s original animation, is the character of Mowgli who acts like a spoiled brat. Mowgli disrespects Bagheera, Raksha and other animals of the jungle, who tried to help out the boy. This is one of the many little changes Favreau made, re-examining the character of the man-cub and turning him into a curious child, but one who respects the animals of the jungle, especially those that took him in and offered protection. Neel Sethi is mind blowing as Mowgli, I actually buy this young actor’s rendition of the Jungle’s man-cub and he is my favourite actor right now to take on that role (sorry Jason Scott Lee).
Ben Kingsley gives his voice to the black panther Bagheera and I love his depiction of the wise hunter. His voice-over narration gives a quick perspective of how he found Mowgli, making me like the purpose of the character in this film. Bill Murray is the perfect casting for Baloo, the bear. He is funny, has great dialogue lines and pays tribute to Disney’s original depiction of the bear. My only issue is with Scarlett Johansson's screentime as Kaa, which was wasted in this movie.
Shere Kahn, voiced by Idris Elba, is a seriously frightening enemy and feels like an actual threat, compared to the cartoonish depiction by George Sanders, which did not feel scary at all! Shere Kahn wants to kill the kid just for sports and is willing to go through great lengths to reach that goal. He even kills other animals and does set up a trap for the man cub. He is wicked, truly evil and I love the little spin that Elba gives the character. That said, the darker and scary aspects in this story come from this villain and I am not sure if small children will cope with that atmosphere.
This is one of the rare occasions, where a movie that uses CGI as its base of storytelling actually works out, as there is not one single scene that is filmed in the jungle! As much as I loved the visual effects, since they look and feel as real as they possibly can, I am very disappointed by the production team, who wasted the potential to film partial scenes in a real woodland environment. I am also curious to see if the computer animation will still look this good in ten years. Apart from that, Bill Pope’s beautiful cinematography and the incredible visual effects blew me away, including the fantastic CG animals.
The music is composed by John Debney and is simply amazing! Granted, it takes a lot from the 1967 animated feature and reuses familiar melodies, including one or two songs in the movie but Debney gives them an updated beat and it totally works for this flick's purpose. I especially love Christopher Walken’s take on “I Wan’na Be Like You”
Verdict: Disney's newest adaptation of The Jungle Book is truly mind-blowing and gorgeous to look at. It takes Disney’s classic animation and re-invents a few things, including an expansion of Mowgli's story, to make it feel more rounded. While I love the darker tone and scarier theme, I would not recommend taking smaller children -possibly under the age of eight- to watch this film, as they wouldn't understand the darker parts of the movie. Apart from a few minor problems I have with this feature, I really did enjoy this remake, which managed to teleport me back to my childhood and I am still astonished by what Favreau created with a few CGI tricks. I will give The Jungle Book an 8.5 out of 10 and do recommend to go watch it in theatres. Did you see the movie? Did you like it, or do you still prefer the Disney animation? Let me know and leave a comment. Thank you very much for reading my review and if you found it helpful, please make sure to subscribe.