An orphan boy is raised in the Jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear and a black panther.
ActorsStarring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, Giancarlo Esposito, Garry Shandling, Jon Favreau, Sam Raimi, Russell Peters, Brighton Rose, Emjay Anthony, Max Favreau, Chloe Hechter, Asher Blinkoff, Knox Gagnon, Sasha Schreiber, Kai Schreiber, Madeleine Favreau, Ritesh Rajan, Kendrick Reyes, Sara Arrington, Artie Esposito, Allan Trautman, Dee Bradley Baker, Priyanka Chopra
Remaking a classic is always risky. It’s inevitable that people will compare the new version with the original, and often find the original better: if the original wasn’t any good it probably wouldn’t have been a classic to begin with, and some rose-tinted nostalgia may also come into play.
The new Jungle Book puts the original story in a new cover, in more ways than one.
Firstly, it is not an animation but a live action movie. Secondly, the atmosphere is decidedly darker throughout.
Well actually, it is not a live action movie at all: it’s not characters CGI’d into a real jungle; 95% of the environment is CGI – nearly everything but Mowgli (Neel Sethi). And the CGI is amazing. The jungle looks as if it indeed is live action, and the animals, details, and movement look incredibly natural. Visually the movie is a pleasure to watch.
And that darker atmosphere generally works quite well. It makes the menacing Shere Khan (Idris Elba) more credible, and the flashbacks shown as Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) hypnotises Mowgli provide the backstory that explain Shere Khan’s hatred in a far darker manner than most family-oriented movies dare. Which is a good thing. And King Louie (Christopher Walken) is a hugely (pun intended) more intimidating creature altogether in this retelling.
There certainly are some niggles with the movie. I guess in homage to the original, Disney felt the need to keep a couple songs in this new version – but they don’t gel so well with the darker mood. Baloo (Bill Murray) singing “The Bare Necessities” feels a bit forced but can still be seen as a well-intended nod to the 1967 original.
King Louie, who is now not an orangutan but a gigantopithecus -basically a hugely oversized orangutan- is portrayed as a powerful, evil and manipulative king-of-the-castle, in his introduction scene modelled on Marlon Brando’s Godfather by Christopher Walken. Then the scene gets more threatening and this huge King Kong sized animals gets more and more aggressive towards Mowgli, leading to a crescendo of… this King Kong singing “I wanna be like you”… “oh obee doo”… uhhmmm, well, no I don’t think so. That maybe worked with the dancing orangutan in the original, but not with this character, the preceding scenes or this overall atmosphere. One song as a nod would have been sufficient – unlike the original, this remake is not a ‘musical comedy’.
One more niggle is that the story doesn’t really manage to have a huge point. It’s a bit ‘boy wanders through the jungle and stuff happens’. Which is in fact not a major issue as the stuff that happens is great fun and beautiful to watch. And thank god that stuff happens, because actually Mowgli himself is a bit, dare I say, bland and boring. You won’t find yourself cheering for him anytime during the movie. Which is a bit odd really. And actually, everything Shere Khan initimates about him earlier in the movie turns out to be true… but let’s not go there.
Still, it’s a good fun family watch, and I’d re-watch this one over the original: beautiful pictures, moody characters, and proper action for a family flick.