Most of us are familiar with Jungle book, either from the book or the 1967 Disney film or from the show on Doordarshan every Sunday. There’s a man cub (Mowgli – Neel Sethi) in the jungle who is raised among a pack of wolves and considered by them to be their own. Still, he feels like he doesn’t belong. Due to a drought, the animals in the jungle agree to a truce so they could all come to the sole watering hole without being attacked. Other animals in the jungle are curious about Mowgli, but not Shere Khan (Idris Alba). He has a history with humans and declares that he will wait only till the rains to kill Mowgli.
For his safety. Mowgli sets off for the “man village” through the deep jungle, accompanied by his friend and protector Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). He meets new friends on the journey (bear Baloo – Bill Murray) and not-so friendly creatures like the snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), King Louie (Christopher Walken) and of course Shere Khan.
The toughest part for Disney must have been to keep the likeability and cuteness of Mowgli in flesh and blood. And director Jon Favreau has been able to fully achieve that with Neel Sethi. The little boy is fantastic. His Mowgli is different from Disney’s previous animated character where he was dependent on the animals for survival. Here, he is scruffy and adorable, a “street smart” boy in the jungle. He uses his mind to outwit his enemies and survive. He has the vulnerability that makes the viewer connect to and support him.
Mowgli is the only character that is a real person in the film. All other characters are CGI elements. This is actually a blessing where imagination is the only limiting factor in the film, and boy, can Disney IMAGINE! They have created a stunning jungle with a narrative that is scarier and more vigorous than the animated version. The visuals are so sophisticated that the viewer never feels the characters on the screen are not real. The Jungle comes alive in a way that may not have been possible were it not computer generated.
The cast have breathed life into the characters. Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Alba, Lupita Nyong, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito have all done a marvelous job in bringing the right tone to their character. Last but not the least, there’s Scarlett Johansson who makes a seductive and hypnotic Kaa.
Director Jon Favreau, who made Ironman movies earlier, brings his expertise in action genre to this Jungle Book. He also provides the soft touch wherever necessary. He has made Jungle Book not just a fun film, but a film that leaves the viewer yearning for more when the film ends. You don’t want to leave the jungle for the uneventful city life outside.
Warner Bros. is also coming out with their Jungle Book in a year. That film, unlike Disney’s CGI, will use live action. Whatever the technology, this Jungle Book has sort of set the bar. Warner has a tough task ahead of it. Disney has surpassed expectations by making a wonderful film.
Poster – By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46830494
Rating : 4/5
Starring: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Alba, Lupita Nyong, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jon Favreau