Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken
Based on the beloved book by Rudyard Kipling, this “live action” adaptation follows man-cub Mowgli (Sethi), who must flee the jungle after he is threatened by the tiger Shere Khan (Elba). With his friends Baloo (Murray) and Bagheera (Kigsley) at his side, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
I was incredibly apprehensive about this film before going into it. Whilst Disney’s last batch of live action adaptations (Maleficent, Cinderella) were good, for me The Jungle Book was up there with The Lion King in terms of the ones I deemed to be “untouchable” for adaptations. Not only are these two of my favourite Disney films, but for me recreating the anthropomorphic magic of the cartoons in the “real world” was an impossible task.
I shouldn’t have worried, this film is wonderful! I very deliberately referred to it as a “live action” film, with the quotation marks intentionally placed, as there’s little in this film which is live apart from young Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli. Everything was shot on green stages, but the incredibly detailed landscapes and photo-realistic animals would never have given this away. With this highly advanced computer animation, Favreau is able to create something that just wouldn’t have been possible years ago, and it’s absolutely stunning.
The landscapes feel so rich and dense that it is so easy to forget it is entirely animated. Credit has to go to Sethi as well; in his first acting role, performing to a green screen and a tennis ball in place of a bear is no easy feat!
When I first saw the voice cast list, I felt immediately reassured, and happily it’s even better in the film than it is on paper. The voice cast are all magnificent, particularly Idris Elba as the menacing Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as wise Bagheera, and Bill Murray as the happy-go-lucky Baloo. It is Murray as Baloo which gives the film most of its big laughs, and despite the tone being quite dark, the comedy does help to lighten the mood!
There’s very subtle differences in story to the 1968 animated classic, but nothing that will upset fans. Indeed this film manages to both nod to the original movie, and the novel source material in ways that will really delight, but yet it still manages to feel like it’s own film. I particularly loved the inclusion of the “Law of the Jungle” which is taken word for word from the book.
There’s really nothing major that lets this film down. Without spoiling much I will say that there are a couple of the songs from the cartoon featured, and whilst I loved this, at the same time I could have easily lived without them. One was very well placed, but another felt a bit more like fan service. That’s not to say I didn’t like the inclusion of the songs, but I think without them, the film could’ve stood out even more as its own film, separate to the animated version.
I really loved Lupita Nyong’o as Mowgli’s wolf mother, and for me she was the emotional heart of the story. I would have loved for her to play a bigger role and to have seen her relationship with Mowgli explored a touch more.
I saw this movie and you should too. I absolutely adored this movie! It’s beautiful to look at, the cast are great, and it’s easily my favourite of the Disney live action adaptations so far. I reckon this film stands a high chance of being in, or very close to, my top 10 of 2016 at the end of the year, it really is that good. Absolutely worth seeing on the big screen, and maybe even treat yourself to IMAX!