Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

(Featured image:  Disney Movies)

As much as I like Disney, I’m not really one for live-action remakes of animated classics. I mean, how many more retellings of Cinderella can we as a society live through, y’know? But from the moment the cast was announced and the trailer was released for the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, I knew I had to go see it. The trailer alone made it look epic. And it pretty much is.

The movie showcases a phenomenal ensemble cast, including: Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Giancarlo Esposito. Despite only their voices being heard through dialogue, these actors breathe life into their animal counterparts in the movie, making them captivating characters. Idris Elba’s Shere Khan commands your attention throughout all the scenes he’s in and I found myself thinking that Elba would make a fantastic Shakespearean villain – make it happen, Hollywood. Scarlet Johansson features minimally but is equally captivating and mesmerising as Kaa, merely through her dialogue and the way the movie is filmed; while Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera is a strong and dominant figure both on screen and for Mowgli. The introduction of Neel Sethi as Mowgli is wonderful casting and the young actor proves to be incredibly charismatic and equal amounts of emotional, adorable and sassy. The live-action version also introduces a host of funny minor characters who provide some light comic relief to keep the new generation of little movie-goers interested (it is a children’s movie after all).

The storytelling is dramatic, emotional, humorous and charming overall. The movie is beautifully-filmed; the cinematography is visually-stunning and breathtaking and invites us to wander, and often run, around a magnificent jungle. The animals and effects are realistic, seamless and captivating. The movie manages to balance its fast-paced action scenes and jump-scares (which got me at several points, I won’t lie) with beautiful landscape shots, which depict the general serenity of the jungle setting.

I found that the movie, while staying true to its predecessor, was quite different from the original 1967 movie, so be wary of going into this movie expecting it to be an exact live-action copy of the original. Some won’t like that, but I did. While I did miss the full songs, I enjoyed Favreau’s deviation from the original movie and believe that he builds wonderfully on the original premise. I was also pleased to see that this film managed to remake The Jungle Book without the damning colonial and racist overtones of Kipling’s books from which it originates and the animated classic. This movie satisfyingly does away with the colonial overtones (as much as it can, considering who wrote the original books) and re-imagines the jungle and animals as collaborative and harmonious, while the figure of man is seen as damaging and unnecessary to a jungle that thrives on its own. Favreau’s decision to reconfigure various parts of the movie was a fresh and welcome change, and reintroduces the story of Mowgli, the man-cub, and his animal family and friends in a new, charming, contemporary light.

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