Updated: Oct 10, 2020
The beloved Disney children's classic is given new life with 2016's "live action" adaption of the box office smashing movie. Staring Neel Sethi, and featuring the voices of Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray, this epic adventure through a magical world of talking animals and haunting characters is not just one for the kids. Exploring dark themes, chilling scares and political subtext, the new Jungle Book emerges as a completely new film.
The base story goes as such; A young boy, Mowgli (Sethi), is raised by wolves, but his simple life is ripped apart by a vengeful tiger named Shere Khan (Elba) who plans to kill him because he is a human - and human's bring destruction to the natural world, allegedly. To achieve this purposed assassination, Shere exhibits sheer determination and stubbornness, literally willing to kill anyone whom may stand in his way. Mowgli catches on to Shere's plan decides, not wanting his wolf-pack to get hurt, escape into the jungle in search of a human settlement to join.
But he doesn't do this completely on his own. He is guided by a panther named Bagheera (Kingsley) and on this journey, encounters a series of wonderful and complex creatures all presenting obstacles for Mowgli to overcome. Teaming up with some, and fleeing from others, the film’s roller-coaster revolve heavily around this wild (pun intended) journey and these spontaneous interactions. A bear, a snake and an orangutan all become breathtaking spectaculars, helping develop Mowgli's character as he finds him place in the jungle.
The film differ from the beloved 1967 hand-drawn, upbeat, fun animated feature we ironically know, as Director Jon Favreau takes a much darker, haunting, and grittier stylised approach to his storytelling. The intense fight scenes, immersive sets, and witty dialogue bring his desired fresh take to the screen, steering far from merely recreating the classic in high definition. Not without paying homage though, Favreau elegantly and subtlety references the past with respect and modesty throughout, adding a modern blockbuster atmosphere through his use of camera angles used in the original. The extension of respect toward the beloved piece of cinema history echos moments taken straight from the source material but never feels like it's ripping it off. This can even be seen through the iconic Baloo (Murray) depiction when he takes on ‘Bear Necessities’ in a similar yet new direction.
Favreau’s application of CGI, like his entire film, finds the perfect balance between realism and fantasy, linking human-like facial expressions with realistic animal movements. This, alongside beautiful cinematography and voice work, creates a fun and re-imagined rebirth of a classic, respecting the masterpiece and adding something new to the table for the next generation. While taking on some frightening and more adult undertones, the charm and wonder prevalent in the original still holds true.