Many an evening growing up was spent watching the 1967 Disney animation of the same name. There was magic in the creatures cavorting across the screen and the songs were unforgettable. It was with some trepidation then that I watched the 2016 reboot, however I could not have been more pleased. Plot-wise, there are similarities with Disney’s film, however this isn’t a scene by scene copy at all and it’s not bursting with song like the animation.
The film borrows from both the Disney animation, but also Rudyard Kipling’s original works, so the tone is much darker. The characters are more fleshed out too. The wolves, in particular, are a much larger focus of the story than I recall from the animation and I liked the Law of the Jungle and Water Truce ideas. Particularly pleasing was the addition of Mowgli’s human ingenuity - his ‘tricks’ - deftly playing with the line between Man’s creativity and his penchant for destruction.
The visuals in The Jungle Book are stunning. Being predominantly computer generated, the film manages to avoid that ‘uncanny value’ feel while looking hyper real. The jungle itself is thriving and swarming with animals, small and large. All the well-known favourites are here - Bagheera, Baloo, Shere-Kan, Kaa, King Louie - and the attention to detail, particularly in their faces and life-like animations, is impressive. I particularly liked their eyes, especially Bagheera’s, and the way Baloo ambles along.
In addition to the energy of the action, the voice acting is extremely well cast with big names. Ben Kingsley brings age and wisdom to Bagheera, while Idris Elba’s Shere-Kahn is menacing and authoritative. Similarly, Scarlett Johansson sss-skillfully sss-seduces as Kaa, and Bill Murray’s offbeat delivery as Baloo gives the slightest comedic touch to an otherwise dark film.
I felt Neel Sethi as Mowgli occasionally overacted, but the film doesn’t suffer for it and his performance overall was strong. I’d highly recommend this reboot of The Jungle Book. It’s the tale we all know and love with new twists and turns and old faces reimagined. I absolutely adored the animal cast and the tug of war between the constant threat of Shere-Khan, and the more care-free community feel of life in the Jungle.
Have you seen either Jungle Book film? Who’s your favourite character?