“The Jungle Book” released in theatres last weekend, grossing $294 million so far. This live action movie is an adaptation of Disney’s 1967 animated film of the same name. It combines the story of the animated film with some elements of Rudyard Kipling’s original writings, which both movies are based on.
The story’s protagonist is Mowgli, a young boy who was orphaned in the jungle and raised by talking animals. Under the guidance of the panther Bagheera, Mowgli is raised by a pack of wolves. Despite the wolves viewing the young boy as one of their own, Mowgli struggles with his identity as he lacks the wolves’ natural physical prowess and is chastised by Bagheera for using his “human tricks” such as tool making.
One day, while at the watering hole, Mowgli is spotted by the villainous tiger Shere Khan. Shere Khan declares he wants the boy dead, but jungle law dictates that animals cannot attack at the hole during the dry season. The tiger promises to kill the boy, and anyone who stands in his way, once the rainy season begins.
Mowgli knows his presence is a danger to his wolf pack and sets off into the jungle with Bagheera to find the human village. He encounters many perils along the way.
Overall, “The Jungle Book” was OK. Despite its live-action performances and darker tones taken from Kipling’s original stories, the movie was still very much aimed at kids.
“The Jungle Book” is a visually stunning movie. Heavy use of realistic CGI gives the jungle and the characters a grounded yet mystical feel. The environment feels like the jungles of India as viewed through a fairy tale book.
The coolest, and creepiest, scene is when Mowgli is caught in python Kaa’s treetop lair. The atmosphere goes from dreamlike to nightmarish as creative wide shots slowly reveal how massive and all-enveloping Kaa is. The hellish snake, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, hypnotizes the young boy as she constricts him. The last scene as her jaws fully extend over the young boy is terrifying and memorable.
Baloo, the lazy and cunning bear voiced by Bill Murray, is another highlight of the movie. Baloo’s scenes are the funniest of the film as he lounges about, encouraging the boy to harvest honey.
The film’s cast is impressive, with A-list actors voicing the talking animals. Ben Kingsley lends his distinct voice to Bagheera, Idris Elba voices Shere Khan and Christopher Walken voices the great monkey King
Although the film has its moments, it struggles to hold the viewer’s attention. Although some darker elements are added, the story is still heavily filtered through Disney’s family-friendly lens. Kipling’s original book was much darker and more violent, and this movie gives that up to attract children.
One also cannot get over the sense they’ve seen it before. Yes, the graphics are improved and Mowgli is a real boy instead of a cartoon, but it’s the same exact story we’ve all grown up with. Mowgli goes on an adventure, finds out his differences are actually his strengths and everyone is good at something, beats Shere Khan and everyone lives happily ever after.
“The Jungle Book” is a classic but well-worn tale. It’s an updated but underwhelming tread down the same old path.