The Jungle Book

Breathtaking and true to the animated classic, The Jungle Book is a fun reincarnation for the new generation.

There’s no question about it. Well almost. The new Jungle Book film is one of Disney’s most ambitious productions in years. Fluid with lush detail, the entire film is a concoction of sights and sounds just waiting to take the audience on an epic journey. There’s action and excitement, awe and serenity and altogether very engaging. But there’s also a caveat, owing to which a vast majority of the audience might be overlooking a fundamental question – Is this really a live-action film?

It’s almost 50 years since Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name was adapted into an instant Disney classic. That’s a huge generation gap to fill considering children who watched the original now have children of their own. In order to satisfy both generations and still remain on par with sister concern and industry leading Pixar, I expect Disney has pushed its creative expertise to the limits. As a result over 90 percent of the film is CGI rendered. If that’s what viewers want, then the experience is bound to be aesthetically astounding. But that also means that very little of what we see is actually ‘live’ footage.

This wouldn’t be the first time though and precisely why the visual effects and production design are not really groundbreaking. Life of Pi in the jungle? You bet. While that film was made in a swimming pool, The Jungle Book is entirely ‘filmed’ in a studio, much like Zack Snyder’s 300. The only thing real is Mowgli, a feral child adorably played by newcomer Neel Sethi. Now here’s where it gets really interesting and it doesn’t matter whether viewers have seen the animated original. Director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have paired the story with fleshed-out characters, each played to perfection with exceptional voice acting. These are Mowgli’s friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther, opposite gangster-like orangutan King Loui, Kaa the hypnotic python and Shere Khan the vicious tiger. And because it was such a pleasure matching these animals to the actors lending their voices, I leave the audience to discover who plays who. That being said, the biggest triumph in this film IS the casting from the legendary three – Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Bill Murray, to equally outstanding voice overs from Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o and Idris Elba. Add to fact that at least four of them are Oscar nominated actors and it becomes an understatement to their delivery in this film.

So to answer the question, The Jungle Book remake is technically still an animated film given the production is almost entirely ‘added-in’ using computer generated motion capture technology. Like it or not, this is the future of cinema but none of this really matters as most viewers wouldn’t know the difference. That’s because the end result is seamless when viewed on a large screen and absolutely breathtaking. Visual quality aside, the film is a heart-warming story that remains faithful to the 1967 original and Kipling’s coming-of-age tale of a child raised by wolves in the heart of an Indian jungle. It’s an adventure for the whole family, and although some moments are startling and dark, this remake is still a fun reincarnation for the new generation. Forget about your worries, the new Jungle Book is packed with Mother Nature’s recipes, and that’s the bare necessities to enjoying this film.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.