Truly stunning special effects culminated in a faithful and magical retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s well-trodden The Jungle Book. The Disney cartoon is a masterpiece; the live-action film somehow manages to outshine it.
There’s an impressive cast behind the computer generated animals. Ben Murray takes on the much-loved Baloo, and makes the bear his own. His rendition of ‘The Bare Necessities’ is a spine-tingling moment in the movie. Getting Scarlett Johansson as Kaa is quite a coup, considering she only has the briefest of scenes, but Johansson manages to instil fears in even the adults watching. Her lisping sibilance send shivers down your spine. Ben Kingsley is, naturally, brilliant as black panther Bagheera, and Lupita Nyong’o makes you feel every emotion of her wolf mother Raksha.
All animals are faithfully recreated onscreen. Idris Elba plays a perfect Shere Khan: his voice is fearsome and angry, and he makes you empathise with the dastardly tiger despite the tiger’s provocation. And even King Louis the orangutan manages to steal a large proportion of the movie, with Christopher Walken booming about the red flower. But none of these seasoned actors comes close to Neel Sethi as Mowgli.
Mowgli makes or breaks The Jungle Book in any version. Get him right, and the movie will be brilliant. And Jon Favreau got Mowgli right. As the only live-action character amid a score of CGI renditions, Sethi somehow manages to get Mowgli right, which is quite a coup considering Sethi is only 12-years-old. Child actors can be hit-and-miss, but off of the back of The Jungle Book, Sethi really does have an impressive career ahead of him.
There are some colossal scenes in this movie. Take the opening where the animals of the jungle gather to drink during a truce – it’s hard to imagine that ALL of these animals are computer generated. Likewise, the final fight is truly breathtaking to behold.
But The Jungle Book is all about emotion, and the connection that Mowgli forges with Bagheera and later Baloo are beautiful to watch, in particular the unlikely paring of a ‘man-cub’ and a bear. Sethi and Murray spar off one another brilliantly – I’ve already said it, but wait until you see the ‘Bare Necessities’ scene – it’ll have you grinning from ear to ear.
The Jungle Book will have you reliving your youth. It’s a remake of Disney’s version of Rudyard Kipling’s seminal work, but it does not disappoint. At all.