Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
How many renditions have there been of ‘The Jungle Book‘? More than a dozen over the years for sure, and it seems like Disney has more than just one project of ‘The Jungle Book‘ in play at the moment, or shall I say ‘The Jungle Book‘, meaning Disney has one and Warner Bros. has one. The first project is Jon Favreau’s version, which is a live-action film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous book. The film itself is stunningly beautiful, as we see in the first shot of the film, which is deep inside the jungle with the young Mowgli running and hopping through the trees. The use of 3D here was actually quite good, specifically the amount of depth it gave the film and surrounded you with all that is the jungle.
From this opening shot, we meet Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the black panther who has looked after the young Mowgli, and has taught him to be one with the jungle and live among the animals. In fact, Bagheera has left Mowgli (Neel Sethi) to the wolves, as Akela and Raksha (Giancarlo Esposito & Lupita Nyong’o respectively) are the wolf couple that take him in as one of their own cubs. Mowgli doesn’t really have to worry about eaten just yet, as all the animals of the jungle have made a peace pact during the water shortage around their watering hole, where no animal is to attack the other.
That all changes when the evil tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) wants Mowgli dead, thus forcing Mowgli to go live in the human village. Mowgli agrees to this, so no other animals will be hurt by Shere Khan and sets out on an adventure with Bagheera, as he comes across other parts and animals of the jungle. The comedy comes in when Mowgli meets the big bear Baloo (Bill Murray), whose only lot in life at the moment is eating honey with Mowgli’s help. Happiness is short lived as Mowgli is kidnapped by a band of monkeys and delivered to the Godfather of the Jungle named King Louie (Christopher Walken), who again, acts like Marlon Brando from ‘The Godfather‘, wanting the red flower, which is fire that can only be started by humans.
This version of ‘The Jungle Book‘ is pretty intense for a children’s Disney film, but it’s not overly done. There is enough comic relief and messages in there to balance out the suspense for the young ones, and of course there are two iconic musical numbers that are just fantastic. The voice casting here is simply phenomenal. Idris Elba as Shere Khan is powerful and frightening and Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa is hypnotic and eerie. Murray adds the lovable comedy of Baloo in such a perfect way that I just think it’s how Bill Murray is in real life, a big Winnie The Pooh.
The young Neel Sethi as Mowgli is fantastic as well, showing his facial expressions and movements very well for such a young kid. Yes, the story is predictable and is more or less the same type of villains and outcomes that we’ve seen many times before, but Favreau films it in such a unique way, that it all looks fresh and inviting. And of course Bill Pope’s work as director of photography might earn him another award for his shelf.
The visual effects are out of this world, as everything was green screen. Even in the end titles, it says “filmed in Los Angeles”, which was funny, but the motion capture and green screen effect of the jungle looks seamless and very realistic. It’s one of the better films that have used this technology. This adaptation of ‘The Jungle Book‘ is sure a crowd pleaser and a lot of fun to watch.
– Bryan Kluger