It is truly something to watch a remake of one of your favourite childhood animated films. What enraptured me as a kid was how incredible it was that Mowgli, no less a young boy like me, could be so at one with the wild. As a kid, I embraced TJB’s innocent idealism and the nurture trumps nature narrative. What made the original story so beloved wasn’t lost in the grittier cascade of the jungle here. There’s not a doubt that The Jungle Book still maintains that air of bubbly fun and goofiness, as Baloo and Mowgli’s iconic scene of frolicking in the river and breaking into song reminds us all how we fell in love with the original in the first place.
The hype about The Jungle Book didn’t disappoint. I loved how the graphics were so CGI-heavy and yet still looked realistic. The dark palette used in the film wasn’t only thematically significant, it also helped to mask the extent of CGI. Neel Sethi’s debut performance was pretty awesome as well given that he’s the only ‘live’ part of the film; His character’s sense of fearlessness typifies classic Mowgli and I’m glad that hasn’t changed at all. In addition, the other characters all had fanatstic casting choices.Idris Elba’s bitter and fearsome voice resonated well to portray a more complex Shere Khan. Bagheera and Baloo, friendly opposites when in comes to ideology, were also voiced nicely by actors of similar styles. Ben Kingsley voiced the pragmatic Bagheera while Bill Murray’s happy-go-lucky persona fit Baloo like a charm. Scarlett Johansson is almost effortlessly natural as Kaa, who’s mysterious motives fit Scarjo’s seductive vocal overtones. There was something very unsettling when our lead meets Kaa because it’s unlike any other moment in the movie. Kaa subtly foreshadows what our protagonist would face but not without throwing in some of her own lies. In the fateful scene’s intense build-up, it’s slightly disppointing that Jon Favrueu opted for a deus ex machina AKA a resolution out of nowhere. It’s something I’d like to get back to in a moment.
The Jungle Book captures the fervour of childhood innocence. In this film, Favrueu has honed in on what makes The Jungle Book special. Consider how the animal kingdom mirrors human society whilst co-existing with them. It’s an interesting dynamic you don’t see in say Zootopia, where humans don’t exist. I’m making this point because TJB is trying to show that just as the animals and humans view as each other as enemies, they inadvertently become like each other; Flawed and controlled by fear. On the flip side and away from deep waters, children can see it as harmonious co-existing between man and animal makes innate differences insignificant to brotherhood and solidarity. The instance where Raksha and Mowgli share an intimate mother-son moment is an exceptionally transcendant moment in this sense. Christopher Walken’s almost laissez-faire ‘couldn’t give a damn’ mob boss accent was a nice touche to King Louie. And when he steadily broke into ‘I wanna be like you’, the jazzy song is ultra ironic. One cannot help but feel the futility of such a desire that would only fester more fear within the animal kingdom.
Scenes like that show 2016 Jungle Book’s narrative prowess. It’s appropriately crafted for both children and adults to enjoy. I mean, who doesn’t love it when a giant orangutan comes out of his crib singing about how he wants to be like us! Or when Mowgli and Baloo float around in the river, whistling tunes of how we shouldn’t complicate our lives with your worries and your strife. “And don’t spend your time lookin’ around, because the bare necessities of life will come to you.” The Jungle Book remake is an awesome ode to the founding origins and often brought me back to my childhood days. I never got the chance to experience something like this, granted, because I’m a late 90’s kid and my only hope for remakes would only come years from now. The Jungle Book’s more mature themes meld nicely alongside it’s most iconic scenes. I was naturally super ecstatic!
Exciting as it was to relive one of my favourite childhood films, I had a slight problem with how the movie had a tendency of springing seemingly ‘miracle’ endings. The kaa scene severely underused the ambiguous effect that Scarlett Johansson brought to the game, consequently reducing a scene that should have been about Mowgli’s realization and Kaa’s moral neutrality. I’d go a little further to say that Shere Khan should have been more of a tragic character rather than one almost inherently malicious. The Jungle Book also made King Louie somewhat more villainous than previous versions which saturated the number of ‘baddies’ in the film. I’m not saying it’s a huge flaw, given that it still had to appeal to children, but more moral ambiguity would have made the film more interesting – The Jungle Book is, after all, about dispelling pre-conceived notions, so why make the polarity so great? Wouldn’t it only serve to oppose your intended message?
Having said that, The Jungle Book is still a wonderful cornucopia of sweet and heartwarming moments. One scene set itself apart from the rest and I’m not going to spoil that for you, but it’ll make you all warm on the inside. Typing that already makes my hands sweat. I haven’t dedicated as much of my review to the CGI but believe me, it was great. At no point in the film do you feel like your watching something fake, so job well done for all the animators who must have worked all night trying to recreate the magic of the jungle. Huge shoutout to you guys because there ain’t gonna be The Jungle Book without you. Speaking of people who should have been given more recognition, Lupita Nyongo’s Raksha was beautifully voiced and its wonderful her character was expanded from the original. If you’re that kid who refused to go do your homework because Jungle Book was on, and you’ve already seen it for the tenth time on tv, then this one is a real bear necessity 🙂
The song about the good life ~
And the new version with some serious atmospheric grandeur about it