Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley
Director: Jon Favreau
Running Time: 105 mins
The Jungle Book is an American film about Mowgli, a man-cub living amongst the animals of the jungle. However, after he receives a threat on his life from the menacing tiger Shere Khan, Mowgli is forced to flee, until he comes across a bear named Baloo.
I didn’t think a big-budget, CGI-heavy adaptation of The Jungle Book would work. I’m a huge fan of the 1967 animated classic, and it seemed blasphemous to me to try and remake that in big Hollywood fashion.
But I was wrong.
While it’s not quite better than the 1967 Jungle Book, this 2016 edition is still fantastic. It’s a lot of fun to watch, it departs from the previous films by telling the same story in a new way, it has a very strong tone, the performances are very good, the directing is great and the visual effects are absolutely mind-blowing.
The visuals will be the one thing that you really take away from this movie, because they might just be the best we’ve ever seen in cinema history. Avatar, Gravity, Interstellar are all astonishing, but The Jungle Book goes one step higher by being so realistic and so visually perfect.
The fact that this film was entirely shot in a studio is staggering. The scenery is one hundred percent photo-realistic, and it makes for a massively impressive watch, but the CGI of the animals is the real leap forward that makes this such a visual masterpiece. Every single animal we see in this movie is completely CGI, but they all look totally real, and if they weren’t talking, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that takes away from the reality of the jungle wildlife.
That’s the most impressive thing about this film by far, and it was continuously stunning me from beginning to end, and so that’s some huge praise that Disney deserve for making a CGI version of this story look so beautiful.
Often, these sorts of visual extravaganzas can let you down when it comes to the actual substance of the movie, but The Jungle Book excels in that area too.
What’s most impressive in that respect is the way that it uses its darker, more serious tone to its advantage. It’s not a dreary, dark Disney remake like Maleficent, but instead a film that feels like a proper drama, and uses the serious tone to make a genuinely exciting, and often genuinely terrifying film, and it was fantastic to see that pulled off so well.
I also liked the fact that this movie did the real job of a remake properly. It’s not a copy-paste production, but instead uses elements from the previous films, but tells the same story in a completely different way. The majority of this movie strays very far from the 1967 adaptation, but it works so well, because it feels like a completely new and worthy film. It’s not a pointless and vacant cash-grab, Disney actually tried to do something bold and different with The Jungle Book, and it worked out brilliantly.
The other great thing about this movie is the performances. Neel Sethi, in his first film, is great, considering that he’s the only real thing in the entire film, and is constantly working with CGI. Meanwhile, Bill Murray is perfect as Baloo, Ben Kingsley is great as Bagheera, and Idris Elba is brilliantly menacing as Shere Khan, making the tiger so much more threatening and properly scary than we’ve ever felt before.
However, there is one issue with this movie that I couldn’t ignore. Sometimes, the tone doesn’t quite hold up in some of the callbacks to the original Disney movie. Baloo and Mowgli sing The Bear Necessities, and that’s okay, but King Louie’s rendition of I Wanna Be Like You, as well as Kaa’s brief appearance, are unnecessary and jarring, and that was disappointing to see.
Overall, however, I really liked this movie, and it flew by in a flash. With absolutely astonishing visual effects, great acting, a new take on the classic story and an effective darker tone, this is a fantastic watch, and that’s why it gets a 7.8 from me.