By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is the rebooted version of a fifties classic. 50 years on from the original Jungle Book, and 20 years since the last outing, the film has been revisited by Walt Disney once again.
This time around, Jon Favreau is at the helm to direct and produce the fantasy adventure movie with an impressive cast and a sizeable budget.
Everyone knows the tale of Jungle Book, but with live-action pieces mixed in with CGI sequences; this can only be a joy surely?
Man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) finds himself being raised by a pack of wolves in the jungle after his father was killed by what becomes his nemesis. Fearful that, one day, this human cub will become a powerful man, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a savage Bengal tiger, is desperate to hunt down Mowgli and kill him. Mowgli flees and meets a sloth bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), who helps guides Mowgli to do the right thing along with Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).
As the opening credits begin and the Walt Disney imagery erupts on screen, you cannot help but feel nostalgic. It was that moment when my excitement reached its maximum. From here on in, I was mesmerised, addicted and sold. I had questioned this live-action retelling, as perhaps most of us have, but now I am all for the explorations of further reboots in live-action.
There are a few key elements to this movie that make it special. The live-action decision is one area where this film excels. Jon Favreau, the director, expertly utilises his crew to depict the characters in all their glory. The realism in the animals’ behaviour, movement and features is exquisite. The frightening antagonist, Shere Khan, was always a scary character in my childhood but Favreau raises the bar here. The aesthetics of the muscular tiger coupled with the booming voice of Idris Elba brilliantly captures the villainous personality of the anti-hero.
Similarly, the friendlier characters in Baloo, Bagheera and wolf pack are also enhanced by the live-action. The audience will remember Phil Harris’ original Baloo but the live-action adds another dimension to Bill Murray’s version. Like the 1967 classic, Baloo is still leading in the best characters in the film table. Baloo also has a starring role in everyone’s favourite scene too – the ‘Bare Necessities’ sing-along.
Neel Sethi, who plays the young man-cub Mowgli, also deserves praise. He isn’t the best young actor ever but he certainly holds the audience. I can only assume that Sethi’s selling point was his acting in the poignant scenes. He delivers them with ease as he is raw and believable. He’s a likeable and the viewers’ get behind him to succeed against the big, bad tiger. His nativity to the wonders of the jungle is also amusing and genuine.
Favreau’s inspiring direction is aided by a thoughtful script adapted by Justin Marks. The two of them have developed The Jungle Book into a touching story that caters for children but can also be enjoyed by adults. The terror that ‘man’ provides in this film is brought to life emphatically by the live-action technique. It makes the sequences more real, especially the final 20 minutes. The ‘red flower’ (the brilliant term for fire) scenes even made me well up and it really hits home the power mankind and nature have.
The film’s message of man and nature being so vulnerable and fragile is screamed at the audience via various means and it really pulls the film together. The Jungle Book is a reboot of a classic kids film but it’s actually so much more than that. ‘Man’ is to be feared yet the ‘man-cub’ is the most endangered throughout the 2-hour picture – it’s a great juxtaposition worth thinking about.
The Jungle Book is a masterful film that delivers on every aspect. It’s touching, amusing, entertaining and of course has those catchy songs. It’s perhaps the best film I have seen this year. The cartoon version from 50 years ago was the ‘king of the swingers’, but this 2016 masterpiece is certainly 'jungle VIP'.
Cineroom’s Rating: 5 Stars
The Jungle Book is currently being shown worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate PG