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The Jungle Book (2016) Review: My Childhood Revisited
Welcome to the Jungle
The Jungle Book is a 2016 film based on the story by Rudyard Kipling and directed by Jon Favreau. The movie also boosts an all-star cast some of who are Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela), and Christopher Walken (King Louie). The credits open in its usual Disney entirety and the film pushes back into the reality of a lush jungle.The minute the film started, I noticed that this is definitely not the same film I watched all those years ago. The live action setting adds a tone of maturity to the normally childlike atmosphere.
The Jungle Book
The screenplay written by Justin Marks, brilliantly brings together all the animals of the jungle together through a water truce. The water truce came about as a result of a drought. The water truce allows us to see almost all the animals of the jungle as they come together to drink. In this particular place, drinking is prioritized over hunger. Although Shere Khan (the tiger) hates humans (and dislikes other animals) even he has to come and drink from the fountain as well.
Mowgli, the man cub (Neel Sethi), is a bright, adventurous young boy who was raised by his mother Raksha (wolf). For the most part, he follows the rules of the pack but he has to repeatedly be told not to build tools from the environment to use to his advantage. The wolf pack is led by their leader Akela (wolf) who uses his courage and wisdom to keep the pack safe.
The story shifts from harmonious to sinister when Shere Khan comes along. He holds a grudge against Mowgli and vows to come back for him when the drought ends. He makes good of his promise and the story shifts into an adventure where Mowgli will encounter an anaconda, orangutan, and a bear that loves to sing!
The animals in the film are definitely selling point of the film. Each animal was unique in the way they spoke. Bagheera and Akela's voices are strong, defined and show leadership. When they speak their voice commands attention. Raksha's voice is soft and maternal. Her voice can sooth anyone and make them feel like everything in the world is alright. Shere Khan's voice is callous and powerful. Kaa (the anaconda), as she tells Mowgli of his past voice is sly and seductive. Baloo's voice like in the animated film is kind and trustworthy. King Louie, (who is on a quest for power) talks like a crime boss when he tries to persuade Mowgli to get the Red Flower for him. The CGI in the film lends itself well to the animals as you can see their distinct features in the faces of the animals. You can see the subtitle facial expression of love, anger, and even joy.
Cinematography, Music, and Dialogue
Cinematographer Bill Pope along with the rest of production outdid themselves with the realistic and natural settings of the lush jungle shown. The camera angles in the opening chase scene with Bagheera makes it fast and frantic. The introduction of Shere Khan with the animals looking up reminded me of The Lion King. The way Shere Khan's black silhouette lays over the sunset was magnificent. Some of the best scenes in the movie feature the lush landscapes of the jungle. It is a sight to marvel to see the rivers running through the jungle, the water falling off the tall cliffs, and the grass, vines, and trees.
The music in the film fits every scene perfectly. Whether it's a sad, happy, or scary moment the music does not miss a beat. Another exciting part of this film (as of the old) are the musical numbers featured in the film. Old time favorites such as "Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" are here. As soon as Baloo and Mowgli sang together, "Look for the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife!" I was instantly hit by a surge of Deja vu. The musical performances of the singers were also spot on and the numbers were a more sophisticated take on the old songs but still upheld the spirit of the original.
The dialogue in the film is mature, funny but more importantly informative. Thanks to Shere Khan, I found out that the Cuckoo bird sneaks its eggs into other birds nests! Characters speak with intent and do not say things for laughter. Anything any animal has to say for the most part has purpose. However, it's not all serious. There are funny parts to the film as well. After Bagheera finished an awe-inspiring speech about the elephants and the jungle, in a later situation Mowgli says "Wow, we got to bow to the Buffalo, too?" Throughout the film Baloo also contributes to the film with his funny quips as well to make sure the film is never too serious.
The Jungle Book delivers an updated version of the story I read when I was once a child. The beautiful, modern CGI makes it looks like real animals are talking and is amazing. The movie satisfies the adult side of me with its dark but realistic themes of forest fires and animal death. The fighting between the animals in the film is breathtaking, accurate and exciting. The movie is certainty not for all ages but having seen the original, animated film I can say for certain that I the little kid in me who would read The Jungle Book came full circle after watching this film.
The Jungle Book is available on Blu-Ray/DVD.