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Rudyard Kipling’s tale of a human child being raised as a jungle is one that we’ve all grown up with, and you probably have some fond memories of Disney’s 1968 adaption. The Jungle Book has returned to the big screen, and you might be wondering why Disney has decided to back to it? Well, the answer is Jon Favreau directing with a team of CGI wizards under his command, and a cast with so many stars that they might as well be their own galaxy, all of which make The Jungle Book an absolute must see movie.
First off, the visual effects of the film are stunning. No, really. They’re probably the best ever in a live action movie, rivaled perhaps only by Avatar. The animals move with such realism that you’ve got to wonder if Favreau didn’t genetically modify animals to learn human speech. The jungle is a beautiful sight to behold, and how Mowgli, the human protagonist, interacts with it is incredibly enjoyable to watch. There are also some action sequences which are incredibly well done, and it’s fair to say that this is one of those movies which belongs in 3D.
The only human in the entire film is, of course, Mowgli played by new comer Neel Sethi, who brings a sense of emotion, energy and fun to the character – words which capture the essence of what the movie wanted to achieve. Mowgli is a character we can relate to, especially when you see his emotional tale unfold. Bagheera is voiced by Ben Kingsley, who is perfect in bringing to life the wisdom of the aged panther, and his concern for Mowgli throughout the story is touching. Bill Murray as Baloo is laid back and a pretty chilled out bear, but like Kingsley, it’s touching to see how much he grows to care for Mowgli. His life philosophy of just taking it easy is explored in the film, particularly in the song “Bare Necessities”, which makes its way over from the original movie. Christopher Walken is entertaining and unhinged as King Louie, and also does a great job of singing “I want to be like you”, also carrying over from the original. The female cast includes Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyongo’o as Kaa the snake and Raksha the wolf mother, both of whom are suitable to their roles. Johansson is particularly captivating, using her famous, or infamous, seductive voice to great use. But the man – or tiger – who steals the show is Idris Elba as Shere Khan, the film’s main antagonist hell bent on eating Mowgli. Elba brings a calm, subtle menace to the tiger with his deep tones, and excels at conveying a sense of terror when angered.
What I particularly liked about the film is that it doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the jungle, or of man. We get to see Mowgli survive and assist others due to his own ingenuity and skills of being a “man cub”. The only drawback to the film is that is perhaps paced a little too fast, though I’m nitpicking here. Those unfamiliar with the original stories might argue that Johansson was underused as Kaa, but that is how the character was written in Kipling’s original stories.
On the whole, The Jungle Book is an extremely entertaining movie for all ages. Director Jon Favreau prevents it from becoming just a stunning technical showpiece with the aid of a truly amazing visual effects team and an ensemble cast who voice their characters to perfection.
My score – 8.8/10