To the Warner Bros’ upcoming ‘retelling’ of “The Jungle Book” I can only say this – Good luck, Andy Serkis. I love you, but good bloody luck.
For those who were waiting for the release of Favreau’s The Jungle Book not too long ago I can assure everyone they are in for an absolute treat. The battle for what’s the better Jungle Book adaptation has already finished before it even began, with Disney once again stepping up to the plate to show us what’s what. Their version is an awesome adventure story, with some brief sparks of musical and comedy, and Jon Favreau directs the hell out of all of it. With last year’s Cinderella and now this, The Jungle Book is easily Disney’s best animation to “live action” film to date.
I quote the term live action purposefully because, if you weren’t already aware, about 99.99% of this movie was made with CGI. The animals, the various jungle environments, the bloody plants and leaves, all of it, with exception to our main character Mowgli of course. I was taken aback by some of the audio design, finding it hard to hear the dialogue at first, and when I noticed during a scene in the rain that Mowgli was wet, however had no drops falling down against him. It was as though he was drenched before they began filming and they forgot to blend him in with more detail in post, but other than that the visuals are seamless! Every environment is so natural and authentic, once you take at least 10 minutes or so to settle in you buy into them right away. They look downright gorgeous on the big screen with Favreau using his visuals to his advantage. He uses these wide daytime shots that show off the jungle’s scale, these intimate closeup shots at night that aim to unnerve you, smooth mechanical movements to draw you into the acting, creating a wonderful playground for our cast of characters to exist in.
What really makes the film shine is the cast, and bloody hell did Disney not hold back. Until the upcoming live action Beauty and the Beast, this has to have the best casting out there right now. Everyone, and I mean everyone fits their roles wonderfully giving A-Grade performances around the board. Worried about the kid? Forget ’bout it! Neel Sethi (debut film performance) is awesome! He’s like a little Jacob Tremblay, which is a solid compliment on my end. There’s no better actor I can imagine playing Mowgli, who manages to keep you invested even despite some minor flubbed lines and mannerisms (which was more so because he was on a green screen set the whole time, less so his fault). It’s the animals surrounding him that really grabbed my attention though. Bill Murray’s Baloo is one of the most loveable voices I’ve heard in a while, and you just have to see his chemistry against Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera on screen. It’s pure quality stuff. Christopher Walken, my god. IF yoU evER WANTED to heAR his VOICE in a gigantic king orangutan Disney has got your next fix, speaking and singing his heart out for as long as they have him. Again, everybody just fits their roles so perfectly, even on the villain side of things. Idris Elba is phenomenal as Shere Khan, giving a pure A-Grade performance just on his voice work alone. I appreciate the film gave his character an understandable drive, since in my opinion the best villains are the ones who truly believe they’re right, and Elba is given a gorgeous role to sink his teeth into. Scarlett Johansson’s role is small, but she left a good impression with what she did. Very hypnotic, very soothing, and oh so very cool. It’s fun to spot the various voices that come and go, most of which I won’t spoil, but hearing Garry Shandling briefly once again did leave a small sad mark.
It’s a film made for everybody, and thankfully enough, I think everybody will enjoy it. It’s not afraid to get dark and delve into blockbuster drama, touching on the structure of the animal kingdom when faced with mankind, but it also knows how to have a good time! It’s truly an adventure and a classic tale worth revisiting, handled with a lot of care from the guy who brought us Elf and Zathura. I mean, what?! There’s no other word to describe it other than “lovely”, and Warner Brothers’ “Jungle Book: Origins” should be worried. You’re stepping on Disney’s territory, and believe me, they are a mighty opponent indeed.
All the locations in the film are computer-generated VFX. The story may have been set primarily in India, but the film was completely shot at the LA Center Studio in Los Angeles, California.