Released in 2016, “The Jungle Book” is a reimagining of Disney’s classic 1967 film, which itself was based off of the book by the same name, written by Rudyard Kipling. It’s the latest Disney film to get the live action remake from their cartoon origins and, arguably, their most well done adaptation.
“The Jungle Book” is the tale of a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who was found alone in the jungle by a kindhearted and stoic black panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). Bagheera takes baby Mowgli to be raised by a pack of wolves where he learns what it means to be part of the pack. However, years later there is a dry spell that causes the animals of the jungle to call a peace treaty when meeting at the watering hole. It is here that Mowgli and his wolf pack encounter Ibris Elba’s Shere Khan, an aggressive tiger who believes himself to be the law in the jungle. Khan tells the wolves that once the rains come and the peace treaty is over that they are to hand over the human or face serious consequences. Mowgli and Bagheera decide it would be best for them to leave to go back to the “Man Village” once the rains arrive, but they do not yet know the obstacles that stand in their way.
This version of “The Jungle Book” created a larger narrative from the original story that still made sense in the world of the original character. In the 1967 version of the film, there is not a lot of reasoning behind the characters actions and most of the scenes are only to get a song in, which is fine for a 78 minute animated film in the ’60s. However, the 2016 film had a well thought out plot and characterization that was genuinely enjoyable to watch.
What probably stood out the most in this movie was Shere Khan’s backstory; it intertwined his life with that of young Mowgli. Unlike his animated counterpart, this Khan had distinctive burn marks across his face given to him by a man. This is the reason why he wants Mowgli out of the jungle before becoming a man.
Idris Elba’s Khan is also genuinely terrifying. From the moment he appears in a scene, you feel yourself being captivated by his character, almost as though he can see through the screen at you. Director Jon Favreau, while not having the best track record with villains (“Iron Man 2”), made sure that this movie felt real and dangerous. I believe this movie was aimed at an audience who loved the original as children and is now grown up enough to deal with some adult scenes, though the movie does continue to be light hearted at times.
There were multiple scenes clearly meant to evoke the imagery from the original. Favreau was able to cam the scene in such a way as to make the scene appear almost in two dimensions. Of course they could not have “The Jungle Book” without a song or two, including the beloved bare necessities performed by a perfectly cast Bill Murray as Baloo.
In particular, I thought the inclusion of Kaa’s (Scarlett Johansson) hypnosis was quiet well done, as it not only had nods to the original character, but added important backstory into the movie. While it wasn’t grounded, it didn’t feel out of place or over the top in this fantastical world of talking animals.
The only real downside to this film was that the CGI was not to the level that would be expected of a 170 million dollar, completely CG movie. Comparatively, it did not stand up to something like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which released five years ago and only cost about half as much. One compliment to the CGI team, however, was their outstanding ability to put Christopher Walken’s face on a King Kong sized King Louie (and haunt my dreams).
“The Jungle Book” is able to capture the sense of joy and imagination we all felt watching the original, while simultaneously adding a substantial amount of detail to the story. While this movie is a bit more mature, it is still an excellent choice for anyone who loved the 1967 version, or who just wants to see a good movie on a Friday night.