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.
This 2016 version of ‘The Jungle Book‘ comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This image looks just fantastic and dare I say demo-worthy. This is an odd statement, because basically the whole movie was shot on a soundstage in front of green screens with very little practical effects. Usually that is a death curse to the video quality, but here, you really can’t tell that there is even a sound stage anywhere. In fact, the film looks like it was shot on location in the jungle at all times. The detail is extremely sharp and vivid throughout in bot the closeups and wider shots of the jungle. Individual hairs on the all of the animals fur are distinct as well as the stitching in Mowgli’s red shorts. The mud, dirt, and grime on the animals and Mowgli can also be seen with ease here and look great in all types of light. The darker scenes never go soft and keep the detail up on a high level. Colors are bright and simply pop off screen. The luscious greens in the jungle are exquisite and pop, where the blue skies and red blood look realistic and bright too. The black levels are very deep and inky and the skin tone on Mowgli was very natural. Lastly, there were no issues with any banding, aliasing, or video noise, leaving this video presentation with perfect marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 7.1 MA mix and is just as good as the video presentation above. I just wish there was a Dolby Atmos track with the overhead speaker set up, because this film has scenes that could utilize the Atmos technology for sure. The sound effects and ambient noises of the jungle are magnificent, and fully immerses you into the jungle life with Mowgli and all the animals. There are distant roars, insects flying around, rain drops, and even mother nature disasters that pack this soundscape. Needless to say, your speaker system at home will get a workout for sure. There is also some excellent directionality here too at all times. When Shere Khan speaks, the bass rumbles a bit, making his voice more sinister. The bass also kicks into high gear in the heavier action scenes, but never crosses into rocky territory. When Mowgli enters Kaa and King Louie’s realms, the natural sounds of the swamps and ancient stone temples are spot on with all of the natural elements coming into play. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow along with and the score is fantastic and sweeping without drowning out any of the other elements. This is a top notch audio presentation for sure.
Audio Commentary – Director Jon Favreau delivers and very informative and fun audio commentary as he discusses the aspect of filmmaking, working with a green screen and a child actor for most of the shoot. He goes into detail on the visual effects and shooting schedule. Excellent listen.
‘The Jungle Book’ Reimagined (HD, 35 Mins.) – The producer, visual effects master, and Jon Favreau all talk about brining the film to life from the old animation movie to live action. The discuss the characters, secrets of the story, and the technology they used to bring all the animals to life. Even the voice casting is talked about here.
I Am Mowgli (HD, 9 Mins.) – This is a fun extra that deals with the child actor Neel Sethi who played Mowgli. We see a ton of behind the scenes footage with him working with the puppets and green screen as well as interviews with him and Favreau. This is a fun extra through the eyes of a child.
King Louie’s Temple: layer by Layer (HD, 4 Mins.) – This takes a look at the song by King Louie as well as how they got the temple of King Louie to look like it did through digital effects.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
This 2016 remake of ‘The Jungle Book‘ by Jon Favreau sure is excellent. Everyone involved did a top notch job in brining this animated film and book to life and it shows on screen. I still can’t believe this was filmed in front of a green screen. The film is highly entertaining, thrilling, and most of all – fun. The video and audio presentations are both demo-worthy, and the few extras are all worth watching.