The Jungle Book: Better than Avatar

I’ve named the headline with ‘Better than Avatar‘ in regards to the CGI effects, but, in all honesty, I believe Jon Favreau’s live action re-make of the Disney classic has a better plot than Titanic, sadder moments than The Lion King, is funnier than Inside Out, and blew me away more than Fight Club. If you don’t agree with me on all of these views, you must agree that this is one of the best Disney re-makes in a very long time. Whilst staying true to the original, Favreau enhances the story, the messages, the action, the realism, the surprises, and the detail. If you go and see just one movie this year, this would be worth it.

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Starring: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray,
Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson
Release: April 2016         Running Time: 105 minutes

I am getting so sick of multiple sequels and re-makes being released (especially Disney and especially live action). Cinderella, Maleficent, Cars 3, Toy Story 4, The Legend of Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast; the list goes on of stories that audiences never asked to see again. Most of the re-makes are based on children’s animations, so to make another slightly-altered version using real people will not take away from the simplicity of the plot line, the silly morals, and the un-detailed scenes. However, The Jungle Book has managed to nail it. The writer should be applauded for incorporating the joys of the original, such as the favourited songs, and the loveable characters and relationships, and adding honest realism, like other diverse animals, settings, culture, and added action and detail.

Whilst watching, in whatever format, you get engulfed in this incredible world, that feels culturally appropriate, probable and possible. The film has become the highest-grossing Hollywood release in India. This must mean that the presentation of India in the film is realistic and beautiful as the country seems to be loving it. Watching the 1967 animation, the story seems unlikely; a young boy being raised by wolves, can talk to all of the animals of the forest, and finally fights off a tiger, but, somehow, the film immerses you into really believing. Everything from the CGI’s accurate movement of the animals, the voice actors, the faultless setting, to Mogli’s scars and scratches and, my personal favourite, the fact that he was found as a toddler in large, baggy trousers to accompany the fact that they still fit him when he’s older. It’s the small things that do really contribute to the overall suspension of disbelief the film creates.

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You wouldn’t have to have watched or read the original to enjoy the film either. Everything is explained, everything has depth and reason, it’s better than the original by far. Additionally, it’s not just for kids. I can’t think of an audience who wouldn’t love this; action, adventure, friendship, fear, death, love, sorrow, shock. It’s for everyone.

Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, should be praised very, very heavily. With filming beginning in 2014, Sethi would have only been ten years of age as he confronted the starring-roll in his debut feature film. To be able to star in a major blockbuster that is, for the majority, filmed using computer generated images, and still manage to move an audience, creating a loveable, relatable character with emotion and nuances, is incredible. Sethi showed us love between a boy and a wolf, friendship between a boy and a bear, and hatred between a boy and a tiger. Take away the animated animals, and it’s basically a one-man show and Sethi handles that responsibilty brilliantly and creatively. For a ten year old to act so well alongside blue screens and puppets, is evident that they could not have chosen a better actor.

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I don’t have anything bad to say about the voice actors either. Ben Kingsley was wise and protective, Idris Alba was terrifyingly intimidating and Bill Murray was hilarious. Murray can make any audience laugh playing Baloo, the bear who befriends Mowgli, using his man-skills to retrieve honey. The most famous song “The Bare Necessities” was very well adapted to the re-make and felt very heart-warming as Mowgli wasn’t really even singing in tune or in time with Baloo. The director didn’t want to make the film into a musical and I think the more laid-back approach to the songs rather than a rehearsed number works brilliantly. The second song to be included from the original was none other than “I Wanna Be Like You” performed by Christopher Walken, and although I wasn’t a fan of the scene, I appreciate that it was very well put together. Walken also added an interesting gangster-persona to King Louie that made him a lot more intimidating. Trust in Me” was performed wonderfully by Scarlett Johansson during the credits.

Johansson also created one of the most intense and scary scenes of the movie with her character of Kaa, the very large villainous snake who attempts to eat Mowgli. Although I would have liked Johansson to have made a longer appearance in the film, as she is only in one scene, I understand that it makes her character even more intriguing and mysterious. Kaa additionally reveals a lot about Mowgli’s past which adds depth to the re-imagined story.

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So, as well as the film being funny and scary in the right moments, there are shockingly emotional moments as well. A certain character death really sparks a loss of hope in the animals of the jungle and vengeful anger in Mowgli when he discovers. This forces Mowgli to confront his enemies (and me to gain a few extra tears in my eyes) and it’s a very impactful climax. The altered ending is something I love about the re-make because I found it a lot more positive. In the original animation, Mowgli eventually goes to live with his own people, which always upset me as he has to leave his adoptive family behind. I always thought that the original was promoting division between races but this movie has no glimpse of these messages. The ending appears to encourage acceptance and celebrating one’s differences, in this case celebrating Mowgli’s human skills such as climbing and making things.

Now, my love for this movie was slightly ruined when I found out that Warner Bros. is currently filming their own live-action re-make of The Jungle Book, due to be released in 2018. That is two more years away, but I just don’t understand why there is a need to initiate production of a film when another company is already releasing a movie of the exact same premise. Nevertheless, I am doubtful as to whether Warnos Bros. will be able to top Disney’s re-make that has nudged it’s way into my favourite film of all time ever hotspot.

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Pictures belong to Disney Inc. All views are my own.
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