Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Disney has recently taken some of their animated movies and converted them to live action films, including “101 Dalmatians,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Cinderella.” They have plans for many other remakes of their films, with one of them, “The Jungle Book,” being released worldwide today.

The film is directed by Jon Favreau and includes a powerhouse cast consisting of Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Ben Kingsley. With so much talent onboard, does “The Jungle Book” display a good example of a remake?

Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi, lives in the jungle raised by a pack of wolves. One day a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens to kill the man-cub. With this issue arising, Mowgli decides to leave the pack to keep them safe. Little does he know that simply leaving isn’t enough to keep the vicious tiger away from, not only him, but all who live within the jungle.

Throughout the plot he comes across iconic characters such as Baloo (Murray), Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), and King Louie (Christopher Walken) while also learning more about himself and his distinct talents.  

For those familiar with the original animated version, the story here is nearly the same. Just a few parts of the plot have been tweaked.

Photo courtesy of Idris Elba with his character

Photo courtesy of Idris Elba with his character

The most immediately eye-catching aspect of the film is the cinematography. Every shot in the movie makes everything seems large in size, which helps the story feel grand and epic. It also helps show off the massive size of the jungle and all who inhabit it.

The CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is unbelievable, most notably on the animals. The way they move, speak, and interact to the environment all looks realistic. It’s pushing the boundaries of what filmmakers are capable of with CGI.

All of the characters are done well in the movie, but the one that everyone will be walking out of the theater remembering the most is Idris Elba as Shere Khan.

While I never thought that the original “Jungle Book” was amazing, Shere Khan was the best character and he still is. The voice he has as well as the threatening body of him makes every scene he’s in threatening and could always feel the presence of him. He’s one of Disney’s greatest villains because that his motives are identifiable.

Without giving too much away, the scar on his face and not being able to see out of one of his eyes is the reason why he hates man.

Bill Murray makes for a fantastic Baloo with his charm and comedic dialogue. The character is better here than he was in 1967. While nothing spectacular and not on the level as Murray or Elba, the rest of the cast is very serviceable to their characters.

Even though the supporting cast is strong, the main focus needs to be on Mowgli, or the film would have no use of them.

During the beginning of the film Neel Sethi as the lead was a bit bland and forgettable. His reactions and facial expressions weren’t impressive at first, but he does get better as the film goes on during more intense scenes. The actual role of Mowgli is done much better here.

Photo courtesy of Mowgli and Bagheera

Photo courtesy of Mowgli and Bagheera

The animated version felt like Mowgli didn’t grow much as a character and only went to the iconic set pieces as more of an excuse to sing songs or progress the plot. Here, he actually feels like he’s learning through his interactions with the other characters.

The plot in many ways is better than the original, but there are elements that seem to be forced because the filmmakers felt like they had to do it and not for story purposes. One of the obvious elements that doesn’t fit in this version is the songs.

The only two songs that come back for this film are “Bear Necessities” and “I Wan’Na Be Like You.” Both are put in because they are some of the most famous songs in Disney history, but they don’t blend in with the way the story is being told. They come out of nowhere and could have been scrapped without harming the plot.

Some characters get more spotlight than others and some are only in it for about five minutes. The wolves are more key characters to the movie for Mowgli’s sake than the animated version and are better here than before. Kaa (Johansson), like the songs, didn’t need to be in the movie either. She is only here to tell some background on Mowgli and that’s it.

Not only is this version as good as the original, but it surpasses it. Nearly every element the previous film had is taken and improved upon in every way. The breathtaking environment, incredible CGI, and memorable characters voiced by very talented actors, all blend together to create a great remake. Some elements were forced into this movie, but nothing that harms the film.

This is definitely a movie I’ll be adding to my collection.