This review is spoiler free.
When it was first announced that Disney was planning a live-action version of The Jungle Book, some comments at the time inferred that Disney was being lazy and unimaginative.
After seeing the final product, these comments seem laughable, as The Jungle Book was an astonishingly good film.
It had everything you could ever want in a film. It had interesting characters, an engaging story, moments of childlike wonderment and heart-pounding, emotional moments that left you glued to the screen. The tone and style of the film were perfect, with the soundtrack and songs adding moments of pure joy to the whole viewing experience.
This film gets so many things right, that it makes you wonder why some of Disney’s more recent live-action films have stumbled a little. Especially when it comes to being able to captivate an audience.
What we liked:
In terms of this film, one thing that it definitely gets right is the pacing. The film moves along at a near-perfect pace, which enhances the enjoyment of the film throughout.
They didn’t hang about in this film, with the opening Disney logo flawlessly transitioning straight into the jungle setting and a chase scene, the film felt like it was constantly in motion.
The camera work, especially the action and chase scenes, were exemplary and credit has to go to the director of photography Bill Pope, who was also DoP on The Matrix franchise. He elevated the visual imagery on screen, which sometimes can be found lacking in a typical Favreau picture.
It’s also worth mentioning that the film earns its PG rating, with some truly terrifying moments. They don’t hold back when it comes to showing you the ‘laws of the jungle’.
In terms of the cast, a special mention has to go to Idris Elba, whose Shere Khan was terrifically menacing throughout the film. Admittedly his first dialogue scene took time to adjust to, but after that he came in to his own and was the stand out star of the voice cast. Elba has really thrown the gauntlet down to Benedict Cumberatch, who will play the same role in Universal’s 2018 Jungle Book.
Bill Murray as Baloo and Sir Ben Kingsley as Bagheera were brilliant as well, with the rest of the supporting voice cast fittingly doing a good job.
There was only really one character that stood out as a negative, and that was Christopher Walken as King Louie. The casting for this was the wrong call. From his Godfather like performance to the song, it just all felt rather awkward.
Newcomer Neel Sethi played Mowgli well, with only a few moments of inexperience showing in his performance. His youthfulness lifted the film at times, and overall he gave a very believable performance. Some of the dramatic moments could have been turned up a notch, but that is just nit-picking.
What we didn’t like:
Whilst The Jungle Book has so many highlights, the film does have a few minor issues.
First of all, they never explain why some animals can talk and others can’t. The elephants in the 60’s Disney cartoon had their own song, but in this, they just make elephant noises. They almost touched on it when Mowgli asked a creature “have you got a language?”, but that didn’t explain why some could talk in English and others could not.
Some of the character story arcs felt unfinished and rushed. Kaa, played by Scarlett Johansson, was one of these characters. Her appearance and subsequent disappearance were confusing, especially for such a well-known character in The Jungle Book world.
The same went for Giancarlo Esposito’s character Akela, whose role started so prominently, before quickly being pushed to the back of the audience’s minds. These two characters, in particular, could have been handled a lot better.
With all that being said, there is no denying that Disney’s The Jungle Book was a hugely enjoyable and emotional film.
The Jungle Book was a beautifully crafted, heart-warming film that had a refreshing feel to this well-known story. This re-imagining was supplemented with the right amount of familiarity and nostalgia that made the 60’s animation such a favourite.