Remaking the much beloved classic ��The Jungle Book�۪ from 1967 is a brave decision on part of the Disney bosses. The classic version had been a big part of the Disney movies collection with the audience having grown up watching the classic with earnest. There was a lot of hype surrounding the live animated version of 2016 with big names voicing the key characters including the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken and many more. Newcomer Neel Sethi was taking on the character of Mowgli and there was a certain amount of anxiety as to whether he would be able to give the role justice. The trailer promised a feast for the eyes with the very best of CGI being used to bring the Indian jungle to life on the big screen.
The film brings the audience right into the heart of the jungle where Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) is training Mowgli (Neel Sethi) how to run like a wolf. We learn that Mowgli was given to the wolf pack by Bagheera and mothered by wolf couple Raksha (Lupita Nyong�۪o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). Mowgli�۪s development is lagging behind his wolf siblings and Bagheera is constantly chastising him for using human ��tricks�۪ like tool building to get around a situation instead of learning the ways of the pack. After a dry season, the waterfalls and rivers dry up in the jungle, creating a watering hole called peace rock where all animals are allowed to come and drink without the fear of being eaten by another. This is where Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) sees the wolf pack have taken in a human cub. Akela stares down the tiger, but not before Shere threatens that once the rain season comes around, he will be back for Mowgli. The wolf pack are faced with a dilemma ending with Mowgli stepping up to say that he will return back to the man village with Bagheera�۪s guidance.
From this point on the film takes on the tradition 1967 classic film storyline with Mowgli having a range of encounters including meeting Baloo (Bill Murray), King Louie (Christopher Walken) and Ka (Scarlett Johanssen).
Director Jon Favreau has taken on ��The Jungle Book�۪ to create a visual feast for the audience and this has been achieved with aplomb. It is the most beautifully drawn and designed CGI film about the jungle where the audience almost forgets that this is not a real jungle with talking animals and becomes reminiscent of David Attenborough�۪s documentaries. Each animal character has been designed with great detail with every skin ripple and emotion being depicted to perfection on the big screen.
If you are expecting this version of the film to be a throwback to the 1967 film, then you will be gravely mistaken. This film is much darker with some real dilemmas being presented to the audience of whether where someone belongs is defined by nature or by nurture. Favreau understands that the audience is expecting a jungle utopia but he turns that concept on the head and shows another side to the jungle which is darker and more menacing. Idris Elba�۪s Sher Khan is brilliant with some great lines given to him to show the dark side of the jungle and the ruthlessness the tiger has, to fulfil his mission of killing Mowgli. Baloo is as loveable as ever and he perfectly voiced by Bill Murray who brings a certain fondness to the character with his love for honey but even he is not perfect. Baloo, in fact, uses Mowgli as free labour to get to honey that he can�۪t reach. His relationship with Mowgli is shown in a hangout vibe way, where Mowgli finally gains some acceptance for being different to the others and Baloo finds a friend. Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley, plays the strong patriarch for Mowgli and his relationship with Baloo is interesting to watch with both of them bonding over Mowgli.
Real credit must be given to Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli and definitely brings another side to the happy go lucky character. In this version, he is stubborn and willing to do what he wants and in some places, has an inner sarcastic side too. He does a great job as Mowgli and proves his acting prowess helping bring a jungle kingdom to life despite acting against a green screen.
The songs in the film ��Bear necessities�۪ and ��Man Like You�۪ are woven well into the film, not taking prevalence over the storyline and kept in tune with the mood of the film. The music score for the film is rich and vivid much like the action on screen.
��The Jungle Book�۪ is a great adventure to watch with some touching moments to hook in even an older audience. This a must see for lovers of the animal kingdom and of the 1967 classic.
BizAsia Showbiz rating: 5/5