Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Into the Jungle - Review of Disney's The Jungle Book (2016)

This is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. - Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

On April 22nd 2016, my friend Andy and I went to the pictures to see the new live action version of Disney’s The Jungle Book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite my initial reservations about a live action remake of such a classic film.  It had been done before and not very well but I thought I would give it a chance and I’m glad I did.  I have never read the book of Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling so I can’t compare it to that like many reviews I have read, however I am a huge fan of the animated version from 1967 and was interested to see how it differed.

First of all, the wolf pack that adopts Mowgli at the start of the film has a much bigger role in this version.  They feature throughout the film and are integral to the plot, rather than just letting Mowgli go off with Bagheera and never seen again.  Their wolf law of the jungle is also featured to bring the animals together in unison against the tiger.

Which leads me on to Shere Khan, the tiger in question.  In the cartoon version he is comical, although less so than Kaa, and polite and charming although mean and unkind and he isn’t particularly ferocious.  In this new adaptation, he is exceptionally ruthless and dangerous, he kills for sport rather than the need to eat and he does not appear to have a single redeeming quality or anything that might evoke sympathy from the audience.  Even the fact he is hunting Mowgli out of revenge for his father blinding Shere Khan and burning him with fire is down to the fact he attacked Mowgli and his father in the first place.  He invokes fear and terror in both the other jungle residents and the audience and his voice is dangerous silky thanks to the velvet tones of Idris Elba.  He is also petty in his killing of Akela just to lure Mowgli back to the wolves. He’s not content that Mowgli has left which is seemingly what he wanted, he wants to kill Mowgli just for the hell of it.  

Baloo and Bagheera, there are no major differences in the characters of these two.  Bagheera continues to be the straight man to Baloo’s comical antics, but both of them clearly have Mowgli’s best interests at heart (well after Baloo has gotten his honey stash that is).

King Louie, oh where do I start? First of all he’s been changed from an orangutan (because they aren’t native to India) to a Gigantopithecus.  He is HUGE, bigger than any other animal in the film.  He is also much less comical than his animated counterpart, Christopher Walken sounds almost like he comes from a 1950's mob and is pretty intimidating.  His genial attitude towards Mowgli quickly vanishes when Mowgli tells him he can’t give him the fire he craves.   He’s also pretty cold when informing Mowgli of Akela’s death and he brings the ruins down on top of him by angrily chasing Mowgli, not being tickled by Baloo.  It also appears that he is killed by being buried whereas the cartoon simply has the ruins fall down all about him yet leaving him unscathed.

Finally let’s talk about Kaa. In this adaptation, Kaa is a female and again, like Louie she is absolutely enormous.  I thought Nagini from the Harry Potter films was huge but Kaa could eat her as an entree.  She is voiced by Scarlett Johansson and she has a sultry, almost sexy sound.  She is enticing and alluring and I can clearly see how Mowgli was hypnotised by her.  Her eyes have the same hypnotic qualities as the cartoon version but this Kaa is much more sinister.  My only complaint about Kaa is she isn’t given enough screen time.  In fact for anyone who has ophidiophobia, simply skip scene 8 on the DVD as this is her only scene in the film and her fate is unknown following Baloo’s rescue of Mowgli.

The voice castings are perfect.  Ben Kingsley brings a calming presence to Bagheera and the comic genius of Bill Murray is perfect for the amiable Baloo. Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito are well suited as the wolves who raised Mowgli and I’ve already mentioned the others.  

The only things that bring the movie down for me are Mowgli himself and the songs.  Mowgli is played by Neel Sethi and he isn’t the best child actor I’ve seen.  However to be fair, this is his first movie and can be forgiven a little for this, after all everyone has to learn their trade at first so maybe he can improve. But at times he is wooden and not nearly as engaging as the CGI animals he interacts with.

As for the songs in the movie, oh please! Fortunately there are only two (not including the end credits).  Christopher Walken has a terrible rendition of I Wanna Be Like You, it’s simply horrible and as for the version of The Bare Necessities, well just no. It’s unarguably the most well know song of the film, which is probably the reason Jon Favreau felt the need to include it but whilst Bill Murray is passable (although he’s no Phil Harris who voiced the 1967 version of Baloo), Neel Sethi is dreadful, out of tune and doesn’t seem to know the words.  The film is no better off for including these songs and would work by just including an instrumental in the background.  However over the end credits there is a beautiful rendition of Trust In Me by Scarlett Johansson which I now prefer this to the 1967 version.

All in all, I enjoyed this movie and consider it an acceptable live action adaptation of an old favourite and as a Disney fan, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other fans and don’t feel it spoils the original in any way.

1 comment:

  1. This was an amazing review sweetie!! I can't wait to get my hands on this film now!