Reviews: more than the bare necessities – The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book,
Directed by Jon Favreu,
Starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johanson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o
The 1967 film of the Jungle Book has delighted children and adults alike for nearly fifty years now. The story, based on tales by Rudyard Kipling, is that of Mowgli a young infant lost in the jungle and then raised by wolves. Mowgli is forced to leave the pack of wolves, the only family that he has ever known, when the sinister tiger Shere Khan issues a threat. Those who love Mowgli must move him from the only world he has known to the relative safety of the Man Village. There is danger around every branch as Mowgli ventures through the jungle.
When I got to see some of the footage and artwork of this film last year, I was hopeful. It’s a great story and great director; the attention to detail of the computer generated art and animation was of a quality that I truly have never seen before. The final hurdle to get my attention fully directed to this film was the casting. Lets go through this now. Bill Murray is Baloo – do we need to say more? Okay we’ve got Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as the scary Shere Khan, Lupita Nyong’o as the ever loving Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, and a loving little bit of amazing as Garry Shandling pops up as Ikki. The recent loss of Shandling, is hard but his voice is instantly soothing even in this small part. Finally we have Christopher Walken as King Louie. Newcomer Neel Sethi stars as Mowgli and instantly becomes the character from the first scenes, making you actually care about the character.
The majority of this film is computer generated, and you would have to question what is real and what has been created on a machine. It’s remarkably beautiful to look at, never mind the story and the voice talent, it’s just a damn pleasure to watch.
The one thing I will say is that this version of the film, while it includes two of the bigger songs in a different way than you’d expect, is tremendously dark. There is a moment when one giant character is chasing Mowgli through a dark ancient building. I, as a forty year old man, got a little bit shaken by this chase and was reminded of the Basilisk chase in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This darkness for me was welcome and brought me back to Kipling’s books.
Jon Favreau, Director of Iron Man, is behind the camera here and what we get isn’t perfect, but it’s massively entertaining and a fine modern version of the story that so many of us love. They have managed to take away the Kipling-esque imperialistic tones that overshadow some of the previous versions of this story coming to the screen.
When you sit in a cinema you hope that what you are watching will move you in some way, you want to laugh, feel fear, you want to have tears start to form in your eyes. I guess I’m saying that you should have some emotional reaction to the film in one form or another. Here I had it all. You may be different, as I can’t figure out how to make everyone feel the way I do, I’m almost there but still a fair bit away. The first time that I heard Bill Murray’s voice as Baloo my day got so better that the smile on my face could probably seen from miles away.
Disney does this kind of emotional journey better than most, and each film that passes raises the bar for the films to come. Just when I thought that the animation in Zootropolis or Zootopia (reviewed recently here on the blog) you see the magic of what the House of Mouse can do. Whatever problems you see yourself, the animation, the soundtrack, the emotional play, and the characters are just perfect. This will keep Kipling’s classic tale going for another fifty years. I’ll be returning to see this in cinemas on release, paying my own cash, and that should tell you something.