‘The Jungle Book’ is a story that so many children and adults have grown up with (both the Disney film and the original book), and now Jon Favreau has presented his take on the classic story in the form of a live-action film. A brave move, but he’s definitely pulled it off.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is discovered alone as a young child in the jungle by panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and brought to safety within Akela’s (Giancarlo Esposito) wolf pack. He’s adopted by Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), and taught the way of the wolf in order to survive. Fast forward a bit and he’s now more capable in the jungle environment than ever, but still hasn’t quite got what the rest of the wolves do. After a nerve-wracking meeting with Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the tiger once hurt by man, the rest of the animals realise that Mowgli is in danger, and so Bagheera offers to lead him to safety at the man village just outside of the jungle. Bagheera and Mowgli become separated early on, and Mowgli has to fight the dangers around whilst also keeping a safe distance from Shere Khan, who won’t rest until he has killed the boy.
If you’ve watched the Disney version then you’ll remember just how magical it was for both adults and children alike – the animation was entertaining, and the songs lit up the film. Although not all of the songs were included this time round, some of the classics were still kept in, which brought that nostalgia right back.
Favreau’s made the story a lot darker this time round with many of the scenes being quite grim and haunting. There’s a lot of darkness, fire, and growling animals – a lot different from the colourful animation of the past, but still accurate to the overall story. Most of the scenes resonate with the originals, although one of my favourite scenes, where Mowgli follows the elephants, was sadly left out. It was great to watch modern-day versions of various scenes though, with Scarlett Johansson playing a very hypnotic, female version of Kaa, and Idris Elba absolutely excellent as Shere Khan. I also felt Sethi’s performance as Mowgli was brilliant. For someone that young to encapsulate the spirit of a character so realistically was a wonder to watch. The best scene, I felt, was when Mowgli meets King Louie (Christopher Walken), although the great ape was considerably scarier this time round.
On that note, I did feel some scenes were quite realistic and so scary for little ones because of this – there was a lot of violence and claws, and some quite dramatic visuals of the jungle being burnt to the ground. I felt that it could have been perhaps a bit too intense for smaller children, and also maybe slightly too long, but for children that have watched the original and are already captured by the story, it felt like a really good watch. I wouldn’t recommend it for children that are easily scared though, as it’s pretty brutal at points (for a PG).
I also need to mention the CGI, which was incredibly realistic and did the film a lot of justice. It could have been very easy for the animal voiceovers and CGI to just not have worked, but thankfully it all gelled together seamlessly.
Favreau has recreated the magic of ‘The Jungle Book’ wonderfully, producing one of the best live-actions for a while. The visuals and the voicing are great, but what really makes it is that it allows us all to live out our childhoods for another 1 hour and 40 minutes, submersed yet again by Kipling’s wonderful story that not one child didn’t enjoy.
I give The Jungle Book a 4/5.
The Jungle Book at CeX
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