Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book utterly shocked me. When I originally saw they were going to launch a remake, I immediately scowled with disgust, mostly because I personally am not a remake fan. I say this because almost every time I see a remake, I prefer the original. However, The Jungle Book blew my mind! The film is absolutely gorgeous, and the CGI mixes very well with the natural settings. The movie is quite accurate with the book, containing the darker elements that are absent in the first Disney film. Being that the film is made by Disney, the Disney Esque elements are all there: lovable characters, a simple story for children, and of course, a happy ending. However, that is not to say that this film is only for children. The film also contains deeper elements and themes that adults can grasp as well, which makes the film one that can be treasured by everyone.
The first scene of the film immediately drew me in, showing an intense scene of Mowgli dodging and maneuvering his way through the jungle. Right off the bat, I was sucked into the film, and I wasn’t drawn out until the credits rolled. In addition to that, every scene of the movie was necessary, so there was never any time of awkward pacing or drawn out storytelling. The craft of the movie was handled gently, and it felt like every shot was successful in showing the awe and beauty of the jungle, while at the same time not taking you away from the story. The shots were beautiful, and like The Revenant, I was mesmerized. What separates The Jungle Book from The Revenant is the fact that The Revenant seemed drawn out at times by showing off unnecessary scenery, and I was taken out of the narrative as a result. The Jungle Book successfully discovered the happy medium between showing off and showing what is necessary.
The characters definitely did not disappoint either, not even considering that there were well known voices in the film. Aside from that aspect, the quirkiness of each character was welcome and appreciated, and even the minor characters in the film were given a personality, even if they only said a few lines. Being an aspiring screenwriter myself, I can confidently say that giving each character his or her own unique personality is difficult to do in the first place. This film gives each animal its own personality whether that animal is a main character or not. Needless to say, I was always looking forward to meeting a new character on the screen, and every new character only added to the delight. The voice actors were great, and Bill Murray as Baloo was by far my favorite. Seemingly manipulative at first, Baloo evolves nicely throughout the story. My one complaint would be the actor who played Mowgli. Overall, the actor did well. At times however, it seemed he was just reciting lines without emotion as if perhaps he was more concerned with remembering the lines than actually acting.
Going deeper into the storyline, I was impressed by the character of the Shere Kahn. While appearing to be a purely evil warlord who wants to rule the jungle, he is given a humanistic side that allows the audience to relate with him. He is afraid of mankind and its corruptness, and his hate for Mowgli only matches his hate for humankind overall. As much as I wanted to absolutely hate him, I empathized with him at times due to his own dramatic encounters with mankind. And this is what makes him such a good villain. Even though he is presented as a hateful monster, the creators gave him a relatable side, unlike some Disney movies where the villains are just absolute pure evil. This allows the older audience to get more emotionally involved with the story because of the conflicting motives of the villain. This makes the villain seem more realistic, because even though he is the villain, he has a personality that represents the relationship between humans and animals today.
The final thing I want to address is the overall theme of the movie. There is this constant theme of fire, or the red flower as the animals title it. It is the one element they claim that separates animals from humans, and Mowgli is the bridge to the gap. This added detail offers a deeper story element that can be appreciated by the mature audience as well, and many shots that include the fire are shot during nighttime. Also, the humans are only shown during the nighttime and surrounded by fire, perhaps alluding to their evil nature, as Shere Kahn wanted to emphasize to the animals. However, there is one scene in the movie that shines a positive light on humans, but I want you to see it for yourself!
Conclusion: While staying true to its lighthearted roots, The Jungle Book is simple and enjoyable enough for children to enjoy while also containing deeper and serious elements that adults can appreciate.