The Jungle Book is an amazing retelling of Kipling’s classic work. The young actor Neel Sethi shines as Mowgli, and the voice actors bring character and depth to the computer-generated animals in order to make a Disney film that resonates with viewers of all ages.
One of the best things about The Jungle Book is that it makes use of the 1967 animated version to feel familiar to older viewers as well as tweak parts of the story to introduce younger viewers to the iconic Mowgli. When I started watching, I wasn’t expecting it to hold such an emotional punch, because I thought it was going to a fun film for kids. However, right off the bat you’ll come to realize that director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks are going for something completely different.
There’s a lot of social commentary in the film. The Jungle Book is about living in peace with one another, harnessing your talents to help others, and understanding each other’s differences and respecting them. While Mowgli was raised by a pack of wolves, they realize that he is a human and one day he would have to leave them. On the other hand, Mowgli has never known another human being in his life. The pack is his family and he does his best to hide his natural ability to invent things (his ‘tricks’ in the film) in order to feel part of the jungle. There’s a conflict inside the young child, and with the introduction of Shere Khan (Idris Elba), Mowgli decides to go to the man village in order to keep his pack safe.
The voice cast does an impressive job with their characters. They could’ve easily come across as too cartoonish, but every character has layers. While Ben Kingsley (as the wise and aged Bagheera) and Bill Murray (as the friendly Baloo) have the most to do in the film as they help Mowgli along his journey, it is definitely Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha that stands out the most. Her scenes with Mowgli will make you cry, or at least bring you close to tears. She doesn’t care if Mowgli will grow up to become a man. All that matters to her is that he is her son and she will do anything in her power to protect him.
The tweaks made in The Jungle Book definitely worked in the film’s favor. There were a lot of scenes where the animals interacted with each other and it helped teach viewers the laws of the jungle. It also helped make the characters seem real, which led to viewers feeling sorry for them once Shere Khan started his hunt.
The Jungle Book does have scenes that might be a bit scary for kids. Shere Khan is pure terror and you can feel the whole jungle come to a stop whenever he appears onscreen. King Louie (Christopher Walken) is horrifyingly gigantic, and Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) is dangerous. The characters and their respective scenes make it clear that even though the jungle has its beauty, it is fatal to the unwise.
I can’t finish this review without talking about the talented Neel Sethi. With every animal being CG-rendered, it is impressive how effortlessly Neel interacted with his surroundings. It baffles the mind to realize that the young talent has been acting alone during the entire movie and the rest of the characters were added later on. He is amazing!
In the end, The Jungle Book felt like the first chapter in Mowgli’s life to adulthood. He still has to go back to the man village, and I think we will get to see that in the upcoming sequel. His pack and the rest of his animal friends know that one day he will have to leave them. However, it is entertaining to see the whole jungle come to a mutual understanding and allowing Mowgli to express his true self. He brought everyone together in order to get rid of a dangerous threat and for now that’s all that matters.
Are you looking forward to seeing The Jungle Book? Let us know!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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