It seemed that not many were excited by the prospect of a live-action re-imaging of classic tale The Jungle Book. However, it turns out that the wave of scepticism meeting the announcement was heavily misplaced because Jon Favreau’s film is GREAT.
The story strays only slightly from the classic Disney animation, landing somewhere between that and Rudyard Kipling’s classic. The film introduces Mowgli’s (Neel Sethi) back-story as a flashback and starting with his struggle to adapt to life as part of a Wolfpack in the Indian jungle.
Other than his poor howl and tendency towards human ‘tricks’, jungle life is fairly idyllic for Mowgli until Shere Khan arrives on the scene with a score to settle. Driving Mowgli from his home, Khan stalks the man-cub through the jungle with such power that protection proves almost impossible.
This sends Mowgli on a journey through the tress, during which he meets and interacts with a series of animals – some he can work with and some who see him as sustenance. Panther Bagheera continues to act as a surrogate parent while Baloo, who saves Mowgli from a tight squeeze, is a mischievous sidekick for the young man.
Visually, The Jungle Book is almost perfect, the animals interact realistically with their expertly crafted environment. In 3D the jungle comes alive, from the monkeys high in the trees to the rampaging water buffalo. Director Jon Favreau decided against filming in the jungle, instead opting for the technology utilised in the likes of Avatar to create a world with a specific ‘dreamlike’ quality.
The film benefits from an excellent breakthrough performance from Neel Sethi as Mowgli alongside strong contributions from Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and more. Bill Murray brings a lot of Bill Murray to the character of Baloo, you know exactly what you are getting with Murray these days and, although it would be mean to call him a lazy old bear, he fits the bill (get it?) perfectly!
Far from another pointless remake or reboot (we’ve had our fill of them already this year, huh?), The Jungle Book is visually stimulating and edge-of-yer-seat exciting from start to finish. A couple of shoe-horned and slightly awkward musical numbers aside (I guess you couldn’t leave out the classics…) this is fun, fast and must-see.