- Young Critic
The Jungle Book (2016)
I don’t normally look positively on remakes, but as in everything there are exceptions. I have previously said that the best way to go about a remake is changing the story into something fresher, but keeping some nostalgic details here and there; this was done to perfection by the new The Jungle Book, which not only is a beautiful film, but it also breaks ground with its breathtaking CGI.
The Jungle Book is the remake of the 1967 animated Disney classic. But in this most recent iteration director Jon Favreau (Iron Man), brings the world to life through CGI rendered animals of the quality of those seen in Life of Pi. In terms of story, the film borrows from the Disney classic and from Rudyard Kipling’s novel. The story is about a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) whose parents perish in the Indian jungle and he is raised by a pack of wolves. However, the terrifying tiger Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) wants to purge man from the jungle and he wants Mowgli dead, so Mowgli is escorted by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) to the nearby man village in order to keep him safe. Along the way Mowgli meets some enemies like Kaa the snake (Scarlett Johansson) and King Louie the monkey (Christopher Walken), and some friends like the loveable bear Balu (Bill Murray).
What I liked most about this new adaptation was how realistic it looked at the situation. Yes, the animals still talk, but there are only two songs featured in this film and the survivalist sense of jungle is much more prominent. I even began to doubt on whether this would be suitable for children, as some moments were a bit too real and shockingly violent. It certainly will be enjoyed by adults, who will appreciate the grittier perspective and the subtle homages to other jungle-related films.
Another great winning cog in this film was the casting of the voice actors. I felt that each choice for each character was pinpointed to perfection; Bill Murray is amazing as Balu, and you couldn’t imagine someone more seductive that Scarlett Johansson playing Kaa; and Idris Elba is terrifyingly brilliant as the evil Shere Kahn. As for the sole actor in this film, Neel Sethi, he does a great job, considering that he’s acting with a bunch of green-screens and is imagining all the action around him.
And, of course, we have to talk about the CGI. It was absolutely breathtaking, and it should be noted that not only were all the animals rendered on a computer, but the entire jungle as well, in fact the whole film was shot in an LA studio. I think this breaks new ground not only in terms of location management, but also in work with animals on set; the problems with animal cruelty in movies can now evaporate with animals and filmmakers happy. But the big problem of course is that the effects are still very expensive. This film was itself cost $175 million, which is pretty hefty, even if it was worth every penny.
In the end The Jungle Book is a beautiful new look at Mowgli’s story. Amazing CGI and a great voice-cast make this a great film to behold. And in very subtle notes, Favreau shows us the beauty of nature and the danger looming of climate change that could take all of this away from us.