Rudyard Kipling’s beloved story of Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera, and Shere Khan returns to the big screen in Disney’s latest live-action remake, directed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau. This trend has been very frequent lately, with Disney trying to reboot every one of their animated movies with a live-action feature film. I’ve seen it fail many times with films like Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent. Over the rest of 2016, we will be getting three more of these remakes from Disney (an Alice in Wonderland sequel in May, a Spielberg-directed BFG adaptation in July, and a Pete’s Dragon remake in August). However, The Jungle Book is the one remake I anticipated and expected a lot from because with The Jungle Book, there is an enormous scale of where a director can take a live-action CGI-filled remake today, and the idea of a Jungle Book remake felt filled with many opportunities to make a rarely excellent remake. I am slightly surprised that this movie did not let me down. The visual effects are gorgeous and like nothing I have ever seen. Some of the film’s shots made my jaw drop. It’s easy to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t, but the visuals in this film still paid off and really impressed me. The scenery is magnificent here and sets a new boundary for blockbuster CGI, but most of the animals felt very unrealistic because they all got human-like characterization, and it would have turned out better if the only animals with a voice cast were the main characters (Bagheera, Shere Khan, Baloo, etc.). Either way, there was a lot of CGI here that made me wonder exactly how they did that. This movie’s visuals were truly incredible and set a new bar for computer-generated imagery.
My favorite part of this movie was the stellar cast. The casting choices in this film were perfect; the actors were well known in order to attract families and audiences of all ages. None of the actors in this movie let me down. Bill Murray was a fantastic casting choice as the voice of Baloo, as he delivered the humorous and charming spirit that Baloo had in the original 1967 film. His character entertained me as much as I wanted him to in this movie. Ben Kingsley also didn’t disappoint as Bagheera. He was cast very well and I feel that he gave the character a great personality and a lot of life. Idris Elba may have been my favorite part of this movie, as he blew me away as Shere Khan. His villanous voice fit perfectly and truly intimidated me in the movie. Christopher Walken was another one of my favorite voice actors in this movie. I loved his take on the classic Jungle Book song “I Wan’na Be Like You” and character’s fun yet intimidating attitude. Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o also knocked it out of the park in their smaller but still wonderful roles that you definitely remember from the original movie. Not to mention newcomer Neel Sethi, who portrays Mowgli in his feature debut. Sethi did an overall very good job as Mowgli, as he was very entertaining to watch and to embark on an adventure with him.
The Jungle Book did not only impress me, but it also entertained me a lot. It’s a challenge to bring such a beloved story back to life, master such visuals in a live-action movie that’s dominated by CGI, and to make a great family feature as well. This movie manages to bring back many of the elements we loved in Disney’s 1967 classic, as well as new elements to bring a somewhat new story as well. The humor is very well written and the pacing is very good too. You can tell the movie isn’t trying too hard to be a family movie, but isn’t willing to sacrifice its heart and family entertainment for VFX, which is what makes Disney able to do a remake of their own better than other fantasy studios like Warner Bros. (who happen to have a Jungle Book film in the making as well). Expect a lot of humor and throwbacks to the original movie, like a few of the score’s elements, and what’s better than Scarlett Johansson singing “Trust in Me” during the credits?
The Jungle Book is one of the rare remakes that is able to top its predecessor(s). This one feels a lot more like another adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the 1967 version, bringing back elements from the older film, yet still delivering a new and unique story within. The visuals are fabulous, the directing is perfect, the cast is superb, and there is no reason why you should not go and enjoy this movie with your family, ideally in formats like 3D and IMAX.