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The Jungle Book

2016-04-15 09:02
 

What it's about:

Mowgli, a boy raised in the jungle by Indian wolves, is forced to leave his home when a fearsome Bengal tiger threatens his life. He sets out on a journey of self-discovery under the counsel of a black panther and bear, encountering a host of devious creatures, including a hypnotic python and smooth-talking orangutan.

What we thought:

Disney is really going all out with their current live action reimagining of animation classics, but if there’s one classic that deserved a live action remake it was The Jungle Book. At first one was a bit wary of how authentic the predominantly animal cast would look, but jaw dropping doesn’t even cover it. Stepping away from motion capture, director Jon Favreau brought to life a beloved childhood classic, but leaning heavily more towards the original book rather than the Disney classic.

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is an orphaned boy brought up by wolves (Lupita Nyong’o) and a panther (Ben Kingsley) in an Indian jungle and happy with life, until the vengeful tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) pitches up and forces the man cub to leave the only family he’s known and find his own people.

Although many might think of musical mishaps with goofy animals when they think of The Jungle Book, Favreau’s version tones down on the silliness and instead brings back the grandeur of beasts, the law of the jungle and the dark side of nature. Your favourite tunes do get have their limited screen time with a great duo between Mowgli and Baloo (Bill Murray) for The Bare Necessities and King Louie’s sing-talk performed by Christopher Walken, but the rest have been cast aside for a slightly more grown up atmosphere, yet still appealing to the younger generations.

Not only is the script a fresh take on the classic, but the voice casting was so perfect you almost couldn’t believe that these actors’ voices weren’t computer-generated to fit the characters. Murray brought charm and humour to Baloo and great interaction with the only human character, Ben Kingsley’s stately well-spoken voice was as regal as Bagheera and Idris Elba showed a new side I haven’t seen before, gnarling with menace and evil in his voice. 

And all the Scarlett Johannson haters can take a seat, her voice is the most soothing, hypnotising sound you will ever hear and nails it as Kaa (and if you stick around for the credits you can hear her sultry rendition of Trust in Me that will make your spine shiver.)

But the most acting credit should be given to Sethi, the only on-screen actor who had to interact with puppets and make you believe that he was interacting with real wild animals. At the age of thirteen, this kid is going places and I hope it’s not a future filled with typecasting as an Indian. In the end though, we can be thankful that Hollywood did not end up whitewashing this one non-white character.

Visually, The Jungle Book is a masterpiece, filled to the brim with beautiful backdrop jungle and carefully crafted animals that look pretty close to the real thing, although their size is obviously exaggerated. The graphics team really took their time studying animals’ movements and ended up with some of the best work in their careers. Although very different to the original Disney animation, they did not completely forget their predecessor, with scenes crafted from the original, looking like the original animation was super imposed on the new film. It’s little details like these that show a film’s appreciation for its fans, and make them want more.  

Favreau might have come from blockbuster franchise Iron Man, but he has created for the world his best work yet, clearly showing his love and respect for Rudyard Kipling’s tale in one of Disney’s best films of the year. Although the really young ones might be too sensitive for the darker scenes, The Jungle Book is a must-see for all ages. Trussst in me.


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