The Jungle Book Review: Move Over Avatar, There’s a New King of the Jungle
Back in January, Disney invited select press members to a special presentation of The Jungle Book. This event was nothing short of spectacular and inspired me to write the article entitled, Five Reasons Why Disney’s Live Action Jungle Book is going to be Epic. To follow this up, Disney, a little more than two weeks before the film’s release date invited those same press members to see the actual film in its entirely. This is my early review of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book.
The original Jungle Book, which was released in 1967, is nothing short of an animated classic. The 1967 film as well as this new live action adaptation follows a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who is forced to leave his wolfpack due to a threat from a Bengal tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Without giving too much away, Mowgli embarks on a journey to find his human home and along the way meets several animals including a bear named Baloo (Bill Murray).
It is 100% obvious while watching this live action adaptation that everyone involved with this project felt passionate about it. Favreau ‘s film captures the “Disney Magic” but also feels fresh and new. In a lot ways, this retelling has the spirit of the animated classic but offers a unique take on the material with moments from the original sprinkled in with lots of care and love. The whole “Bare Necessaries” scene will have audiences squealing with delight.
With that being said, screenwriter Justin Marks and Jon Favreau must have watched the 1967 film repeatedly as well as read Rudyard Kipling’s source material multiple times in order to achieve what they did with this film. The plot, as previously mentioned, is very similar to the original but there are new elements added into the story as well as certain changes to the original. I don’t want to give any of these things away but for the most part they really do enhance the film as a whole.
Anyone who knows Jon Favreau’s previous work knows that the man has always been a talented director but with The Jungle Book he embraces a new level of filmmaking achievement. When attending the special event back in January, Favreau mentioned that some of the methods in which he captured “this world” were very different from anything that has been captured on film before. The visuals are remarkable and unlike anything you have ever seen before. In other words, the visuals are nothing short of spectacular and blow James Cameron’s Avatar out of the water.
I can safely say that The Jungle Book is without a doubt the new king of visual effects in film. I saw the film in the new Dolby Vision 4K 3D and as someone who loves the theater experience, this is an incredible way to see this film. When watching this film my eyes were blown away by what is shown on-screen. The film looks so crisp and colorful. What is even more remarkable about the film, however, is that you truly believe that you are watching real animals rather than special effects. Mark my words right now that this film will win the Oscar for Best Special Effects in 2017.
While I could go on and on about how much I loved Bill Murray as Baloo or how awesome Christopher Walken is as King Louie, I must first focus on newcomer Neel Sethi who played Mowgli. Being new to the acting game, Sethi’s performance as Mowgli is nothing short of incredible. While the performance isn’t as deep as say Jacob Tremblay’s in ROOM, Sethi had to act alongside green screen for most of the film which is a remarkable feat. Audiences may look past this point but knowing that most of the film is special effects showcases how talented of an actor he really is. He is very likable as the character and really holds his own on-screen up against all these beautiful animals and backdrops. I applaud Favreau for picking him for the role and searching through thousands of child actors to find the right fit.
As for the voice cast, all I have to say is wow. Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong’o are all just incredible. I don’t want to go into much detail about each character so I will just quickly summarize each. Johansson’s Kaa scene was hands down one of the best moments in the film. Elba’s Khan rivals Scar from the Lion King as one of the best Disney villains to date. Murray and Walken are the perfect choices for Baloo and Louie. These two matched the characters personalities from the 1967 classic perfectly. Kingsley’s voice oozes the wisdom and leadership qualities of Bagheera and Nyong’o sweet and motherly voice was a great choice for Raksha. There are plenty of other voices here and just like the ones above worked well.
My only real complaint about the Jungle Book is that certain scenes felt a bit too long. This new adaptation is about 25 minutes longer than the original so there were a few moments where I did get a bit antsy and wanted the film to move along a bit faster. Luckily, it’s not like a Judd Apatow film where it overstays its welcome by 60 minutes but I do think if the film were about 10 minutes shorter that it would have made for a much tighter film.
Just like in a lot of the earlier animated Disney classics, there are some moments in this film that I think will be a tad bit scary for young viewers. I would probably ease with caution when taking children under the age of seven to see this film in the theater. The animal fights while incredibly beautiful are frightening and realistic to watch so just be prepared for that when watching this film with the little ones.
All in all, Favreau’s new take on The Jungle Book is destined to become a live action Disney classic. The film’s next generation special effects will make you question what you are watching and will leave you in complete awe. The story captures the magic and music of the original while feeling fresh and new. It is cinematic visual fest for your eyes and MUST be experienced in the theater. This is a perfect example of how classic animated films can be turned into great live action ones. Bravo Favreau and to all those involved in this film.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Jungle Book is an 8 out of 10.