The Jungle Book


Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken.

The Jungle Book is the live action re-imagination of the Disney animated classic. The Disney army of artists blend the animation and human characteristics into believable creatures. With an excellent voice cast, The Jungle Book presents a colorful array of memorable characters. The film boasts high bright 3D animation effects, dream light abstract backgrounds and the high opulence of the sets. The Jungle Book has everything in it. It could be a political satire when it wants to, or a dark and grim propaganda and even perhaps a wild chorus of primitive growls that speak of more serious human agenda at hand. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous book ‘The Jungle Book’, the film is about a boy named Mowgli and his adventurous vitality in the jungle. The story is brilliantly conceived by screenwriter Justin Marks.

The film borrows story elements from the original 1967 version while implementing new elements that present a more grounded and coherent screenplay. The film editing is astounding, the pacing is great. The camera opens between the branches of fruitful green trees of the jungle, and shows something that seems to be a chase; and from that moment, the realism (excellently illustrated 3D) pervades to perfection in an image that appears in pure manner. We see Mowgli, a man-cub raised in the jungle by a family of wolves, who decides to return to the man-village for the sake and safety of his pack and to avoid the wrath of the man-hating tiger Shere Khan. Bagheera, the panther volunteers to guide him to the human civilization. However, en-route, Shere Khan ambushes them, injuring Bagheera while Mowgli manages to escape with the help of a herd of water buffaloes and he thus encounters a host of unforgettable characters in the narrative that follows.

The film did delve into some interesting exchanges between the characters especially with Mowgli and Baloo, a wisecracking brown bear with a big heart, an even bigger appetite, and an irreverent sense of humor which helped to lighten the mood at times. The narrative is really what drives this movie the firmest. It’s captivating even before the comic relief of Baloo shows up. And it has the added benefit of not being too long. If nothing else, the film is simply visually mesmerizing, so much that we end up viewing the jungle as a character in and of itself. Everything within it, not just the characters, is rich, layered and alive.

But The Jungle Book is more than just a crowning technical accomplishment. It’s also a rousing action-adventure tale with real substance that actually moves us emotionally as Mowgli undergoes a transformation from a naive boy to brave young man. There are several beautiful narrative arcs and the young Neel Sethi gives a wonderful performance as Mowgli. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken lend humourous appeal and mobster menace respectively to the vocal roles of Baloo and King Louie. Lupita Nyong as Raksha gives an emotional & layered performance, as the voice of Mowgli’s adoptive mother. Scarlett Johansson is excellent (and under-utilised) as Kaa. Idris Elba as Shere Kahn is chillingly formidable with his guttural threats and Ben Kingsley brings nobility and wisdom in the sleek jungle cat Bagheera.

The vibrant exotic colours of the animals and background stand out. All this is well served by the stunning CGI work and, if reports are to be believed, the movie was all filmed in Hollywood’s concrete jungle far from anywhere green. The cinematography is spectacular and the 3D adds immeasurably on this occasion to the labyrinth of grass, trees and caves that make up the landscape. The sound design is also an aural extravaganza.

Director Jon Favreau and cinematographer Bill Pope have produced a sumptuous and delicate visual experience that brings the best of CGI technology in a movie where the animals are the main feature. The Jungle Book is an exquisite movie-going experience; this combination of live action and CGI is breathtaking to behold. Favreau has masterminded a film destined to be a classic, something audience will clamor to see again and again.

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