It appears The Jungle Book is like a bus, wait for a while for a new version and two turn up in a short space of time. This one is from the screenwriter of, well not a lot really (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li anyone?), Justin Marks and the director of Iron Man and Elf, Jon Favreau. Disney bring you The Jungle Book, a live action interpretation of the Rudyard Kipling children’s book.
I’m going to assume that you are not a moron and therefore are already familiar with the story of the Jungle Book. I’m also going to assume that you’ve more than likely seen the 1967 animated version which is what most people will think of when thinking of the Jungle Book.
This version of The Jungle Book, let us call it Jungle Book 16, keeps reasonably close to the original story though it does feel a lot darker than any previous version I’ve seen. Live action in this case might be stretching things a little, the only actor to appear on screen is Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli, everyone else is voice only. Despite, or maybe because, of this it’s a stellar cast list with Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Christopher Walken as King Louie as well as Garry Shandling, Sam Raimi and Jon Favreau with son Max and daughter Madeleine all adding their vocal talents.
The main thing you are probably going want to know is if the CGI is any good? Well I can tell you it is fantastic. The details and movement are stunning and at some points it is difficult to know if it’s CGI or an actual animal, it’s the former in case you’re wondering. Credit then has to go to Neel Sethi who is fantastic as Mowgli, particularly as this is his first role and he must have had very little to act against.
The film drags a little to start with and it isn’t really until Bill Murray arrives on the scene that things really get going. As I’ve mentioned the story is as you’d expect, this isn’t an interpretation, and the reason I said I presume you’ve seen the 1967 animated version is, as with that one, we get songs in the 2016 version.
Now, I should caveat that with we don’t get all the songs, just the two, I won’t spoil it by saying which. However, I will say they feel like possibly the oddest moments in the movie. As previously mentioned this is quite a dark version of the story and for some of the characters to suddenly break into song, particularly the second song, it just feels a bit…well…a bit Disney, and I don’t mean that in a good way. To have this really dark moment, a scary character, break into song, quite a happy song (though they do their best to keep it dark) is just a bit odd. It isn’t even sudden, you can hear it building, you know it is coming and that seems to make it all the worse.
This isn’t the first ‘live action’ version of The Jungle Book (Stephen Sommers did a version in 1994 and there was another version in 1942) however it is by far the best. Stunning CGI together with a great performance from Neel Sethi, surely a future star. I can’t say exactly what it brings that is new to the table, other than the great CGI, but it’s a decent enough film. And look at it this way, if you don’t like it, you’ve only got until 2018 till we get Jungle Book (missing the ‘The’) directed by Andy Serkis. Like I said, like a bus.