The Jungle Book – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

the jungle bookThe Jungle Book – 4/5 – There is this new trend at the Mouse House that has taken hold.  That trend is to take their animated classics and re-image them as live action films.  This is something that started back with Alice and Wonderland, and has continued through recent films; Maleficent and Cinderella.  The next one to follow this trend is The Jungle Book.  A beloved animated classic from Disney; this is a retelling that stays true the story, but is something that becomes a visually stunning recreation.  The Jungle Book might be something that plays it safe; but sometimes giving a faithful adaptation while creating a world of immersion can still bring about an amazing experience.

Premise: Mowgli, a man-cub living in the jungle, must find a way to combat the threat brought about by Shere Khan.   Guided by his friends and family; he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, learning what is truly his home.

Before getting into the voice acting; I will focus on the ‘man-cub’ Mowgli; played by Neel Sethi.  From the onset, you see this young boy bring out the true nature of this character.  He provides pure innocence that is fun, joyous, exciting and amazing.  Playing against a CGI created world, this young actor stands tall in his own right; bringing a feeling of realism to everything he interacts with.  No matter if it’s a fun loving singalong with Baloo or a terrifying encounter with Shere Khan; you feel a raw relationship this character has with the animals.  It is a very simple notion to just have a child actor just act like a child; but the director pulls something deeper.  You see this child actor bring about a foolishness that is honest, pure and fragile.  Everything is very real because of the unexpected reactions this kid says or does.  This helps bring a liveliness to everything, allowing the character of Mowgli to evolve in a story unfolding on screen.  Sethi does a great job in this stand out performance.  When it comes to the cast who voiced acted:

Bill Murray as Baloo

Ben Kingsley as Bagheera

Idris Elba as Shere Khan

Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha

Scarlett Johansson as Kaa

Giancarlo Esposito as Akela

Christopher Walken as King Louie

Putting aside how amazing the CGI creation of the animals were in this film; the voice acting for each of these roles were played to perfection.  Each of the actors/actresses involved were born for these characters.  As a whole; they bring quality and depth to each of the animal creatures.  You feel their purpose and worth to Mowgli and the overarching nature of the story unfolding in this world.  The power, commandment and genuine appeal brings out a humanistic allure to the CGI created animals; especially with Baloo (Bill Murray) and Shere Khan (Idris Elba).  I have said this before in other films that use voice acting; to bring emotional overtures through just your voice is a testament to both the talent of actors/actresses involved and the overall direction.

The direction of this film plays the ‘being faithful’ card when it comes to this retelling of the story of The Jungle Book.  An overall sense is that Jon Favreau (director) wants to just play it safe for this delicate property.  By sticking to the source material it creates a window where trying to infuse any kind of originality could deter the audience from the overall experience.  Also, when any film follows the source material to a tee; you normally have two self-generating flaws:

Lack of emotional depth

Predictable scenarios

Watching this film, you come to realize that Jon Faverau (director) is aware of these flaws.  In this retelling; he does a great job in invoking another angle that separates it from the original story/animated feature; but stay true to its source.  The emphasis is put on not bringing out the ‘colorful’ nature of what was done before but to create a focal point around a realistic tone.  With taking this approach; he brings an ironic thread of originality.  Everything that could have been overtly predictable and cliché is layered with humanism.  This causes you to see the same situations with an emotional appeal.  From scene to scene, you feel the heart of the tale of Mowgli; a child left in the jungle through fateful circumstance who has to learn how to live in this animal kingdom.  Throughout the film, you experience a multitude of expressive depth, falling in love or fear of the characters on screen.  The joy and tension that happens within the interactions of the characters is fun, exciting but most of all, a true form of escapism.  You feel the struggles of the character Mowgli; being different than the others.  You get that fragile balance that brings out characterization.  This shows a parallel of realism for the audience.  You see his love for his family wolf pack, the jolly relationship with his friends Baloo and Bagheera and the tense moments with his enemy; Shere Khan.  Even as there is strength in the characters and the overall authentic appeal; the script does play out in a way where some clichés abound to create some unhinging moments.  With the film mixing in its originality of ‘live action’ but staying faithful; it does take some leaps to create connection for things.  Spinning with some different takes creates a jolt of unexplained circumstances, as the film takes the route of playing the card of the common Deus ex Machina trope.  Using the ‘things just happen for a reason’ angle can cause you to fall out of the escapism nature of the world.  Even when the predictable nature starts to wane the experience, you are brought back through the quality of the relationships and the heart of the story.  Once we near the end of this tale, it’s an over-the-top montage like climax that plays the typical ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ angle.  Even as we hit another predictable beat, once the epilogue comes you feel at home with Mowgli and his animal family.

From everything that stays close to the source material; the recreation of the jungle in live action is one of the most breathtaking things you will ever see on the big screen.  The cinematography is just simply, gorgeous.  What makes this a stellar achievement is that the whole world is created through computer graphics.  This is by far the most technological advanced film I have seen to date.  From the luscious environments, the spectacular ruins and the animals themselves, you feel the authenticity of this world.  The photorealism is beyond comprehension; creating a seamless transition when it comes to the human boy of Mowgli interacting with the world.  You feel that pure-like sensation; a raw naturalistic setting that rivals the most fanatical worlds ever created on screen.  The score is up and down throughout the film.  There is a mixture of resounding music to subtle like natural sounds throughout.  The standout parts of the music are the two musicals.  Anyone who is anyone knows what they are.  You will either love or hate the original spin of these two.  Even so; the music and musical elements of the story creates a charming sensation that is fitting to the rest of the film.

The Jungle Book gives proof that a retelling can exude stellar appeal while playing to the tropes of what makes an animated feature great.  From the voice acting to the recreation of the jungle; you are enraptured by everything you see.  I recommend this to any fan of the original or a Disney fan; it is worth the full price at the theaters.

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