THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016)

Directed by: – Jon Favreau

Produced by: – Jon Favreau & Brigham Taylor
Starring: – Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken & Neel Sethi
Runtime: – 105 minutes (1hr 45mins)
The Legend will never be the same
 
Based on the classic collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling and the original 1976 Disney animated adaptation of the same name, The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy who is also known as the ‘Man Cub’ that has lived in the jungle since he was a baby. He was raised by a pack of wolves led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) & Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o). Despite being considered an outcast amongst the other animals he is largely accepted by the inhabitants of the jungle.
 
This remake is a darker than animated feature.

This remake is a darker than animated feature.

 
However a Scarred Tiger, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) returns and wants the man cub dead because of his previous encounter with a human. He cannot because the animals of the jungle are currently respecting a peace agreement in times of a drought.  This gives Mowgli an ample amount of time to escape from Shere Kahn’s claws. Bagheera (Sir. Ben Kingsley) – A Black Panther and Mowgli’s guardian agrees to safely escort the Man Cub back to the “Man Village”.   The Journey is littered with danger and excitement as Mowgli meets a variety of animals both friendly, like the extremely likeable but lazy honey –loving Bear, Baloo  (Bill Murray) and dangerous threats like the entrancing snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) & the humongous Gigantopithecus King Louie (Christopher Walken) who leads a mob of monkeys and is obsessed with harnessing the power of fire.
 
 
Mowgli , Bagheera & Baloo are back.

Mowgli , Bagheera & Baloo are back.

This version of The Jungle Book marks Disney’s third attempt to modernise their classic animated features. This darker take on the beloved movie features an impressive cast of actors, lending their voices and new child actor who is looking to show his worth in Hollywood. Jon Favreau (Iron-Man, Iron-Man 2, Chef  & Cowboy & Aliens) the man who is well known for kick-starting the Marvel Cinematic universe in style takes the helm as director in this film. Asides from being a visual experience of the highest order, does this movie do enough to supersede its predecessor as the première adaptation of Jungle Book? Lets look at the pros and cons. 
 
 
 
PROS
 
  • The first thing everyone will notice is how spectacular the visuals are.  At initial glance, one would think that the film was made in a jungle but in reality, it was shot behind a green screen.  The backgrounds are Computer Generated Images and watching the film it was very difficult to make that distinction. The animals also look life like. Once again I wouldn’t judge anyone if they thought they used real animals because they act and move like their real life counterparts. This movie truly shows us how far the industry has come in terms of creating visually arresting movies and I would argue that the aesthetics are worth the asking price on its own.
  • Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli does a really good job. His playfulness, agility and resourcefulness capture the spirit of the character from the original Disney adaptation. What makes this performance particularly impressive is the fact that he acted on a green screen all by himself. He didn’t really interact with the other actors as they just lent their voice to the animals. Its no easy feat acting alone and for a kid to do an admirable job, speaks volumes of his potential as an up and coming star.
  • With a star-studded cast, it is not really a surprising that they do an excellent job. I really loved Lupita Nyong’o’s motherly warmth as Raksha. Sir Ben Kinglsey gives us a noble performance as Bagheera the Black Panther, who is loyal and wise. Bill Murray gives us one of his best performances in a long time as Baloo, the carefree Bear who serves as comic relief in this epic.  Christopher Walken rounds off the impressive performances as he depicts King Louis as Mob leader of monkeys, which is funny. The weak link of these performances in my honest opinion is Scarlett Johansson who doesn’t get enough screen time to be more than ok.
  • Idris Elba’s voice performance as shere Khan is the best of the lot. Shere Khan is intimidating, ruthless and relentless and will not stop until Mowgli bites the dust.  The classic version of the character is often considered to be one of Disney’s best villains but Mr. Elba’s turn as the character is even better. A problem I had with the previous version is that his motivation to kill the man cub was just for fun, but this film takes a lot of time to show you the character’s motivation and makes it even personal.
  • Compared to its 1967 brethren, this adaptation is definitely more cohesive. The animated version feels like an amalgamation of random scenes tied together to a really thin plot. Though the plot is the same, the modern version feels tighter thanks to better pacing and greater character development for the supporting character. You really get to know them this time round as the film spends adequate time to develop the animals and not relegate them to one or two scenes. 
Shere Khan is truly terrifying !!

Shere Khan is truly terrifying !!

 
 
CONS
  • The film’s biggest flaw is one that also plague the other live-action (in this re-imagined) renditions of the Disney animated features (with the exception of Maleficent). The plot is exactly the same as its hand-drawn counterpart.  If you have seen the 1967 animated version then you pretty much know what’s going to happen in this version.
  • I mentioned earlier that Scarlett Johansson portrayal of Kaa the snake is at the bottom of the food chain. Whilst I find her voice extremely hypnotising and appealing, the way she is utilized in this movie is a bit disappointing. Apart from scaring the living day lights out of the young ones with her sheer size and trying to devour Mowgli, she only appears to serve her purpose as an avatar that gives the audience an unnecessary exposition dump. The writers could have easily found an alternate way to do so.
  • A reason why a lot of people revere the 1967 version of Jungle Book is its soundtrack. The original featured some classic songs that are still engraved into people’s memory. This version of the film only has two songs. It is great to hear  “Bear Necessities” sung by Bill Murray, it’s the other the other song -“I wanna be like you” that is the problem.  Hearing Christopher Walken sing this song is funny but it is awkwardly introduced into the film for the sake of fan service, as there is no clear indication that King Louie is about to break into song. It’s also worth mentioning that it is not as expressive as the original version.  To be honest I think this film would have been perfectly fine if they didn’t incorporate the songs into the film.
  • Parents, be careful, despite the fact the film is appropriate for kids, there are some parts in the film that may scare the young ones. I appreciate the fact that its not dumbing itself down for the younger audience its just a point to make note of.
This film is a visual master-piece.

This film is a visual master-piece.

 
It is not often that a remake sets a new standard in cinema with its computer Generated Images.  Not only is it a visual masterpiece, it also a thoroughly enjoyable film with a stellar cast that ultimately brings the goods to the jungle.  This is without a shadow of a doubt the definitive version of The Jungle Book.  Watch this movie as soon as you can.
 
RATING:- WORTH A WATCH

Category: Hollywood, Reviews
Olisa Nwokedi
About The Author
- Olisa is an Aberystwyth University law graduate and Fordham University School of Law Masters graduate who was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 2016. He enjoys playing and watching rugby, writing, watching movies, playing video-games and Shark wrestling.......... that last part was fiction.