24 April 2016

[Review] The Jungle Book

Director: Jon Favreau
Casts: Neel Sethi, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken
Genre: Adventure/Family
Running Time: 111 minutes (1 hour 51 minutes)
Release Date: 15th April 2016

The Jungle Book retells the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a 'man cub' who was separated from his father at birth and raised by a pack of wolves. We find Mowgli struggling to blend in and become a wolf like the rest of his pack when ruthless tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens to kill him out of vengeance for an injury that was granted unto him by Mowgli's father. Escorted by his caretaker Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Mogli must escape Shere Khan's grasp beyond the jungle's borders, while tackling the tough question; where does he belong? With his own kind or the animals that raised him? Throw in a snake temptress, monkey king, and a convivial lazy bear and you've got the perfect recipe for a family adventure. The struggle for the top of the food chain awaits in The Jungle Book.

Before I begin, I know what you're going to ask, and yes, they kept the Bear Necessities and I wanna be like you songs. There were a lot of considerable similarities and differences to the original actually. Similar: the characters, general plot, and songs. Different: certain events of the plot, new sub-plots, the closer attention to themes, and the overall quality of the film. This one was better.

This is a reboot of the original 1967 cartoon version of the film, and Director Favreau displayed his supreme directing skills in balancing the existing events of the original and giving older audiences some nostalgia and making the film more contemporary and making the characters and areas of plot a lot more three dimensional. This skill matches that of J.J. Abrams in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Without any spoilers, there are little changes in the plot that cause big ripple effects to what is the final product which may make some fans upset, but I found these changes to be welcoming and even required for this film to be a success. I will further explore each of these differences throughout the review. Needless to say, Favreau switched the film up in a way that made it deep, fulfilling, and entertaining for all audiences despite it being labelled as a children's movie.

I did have some issues with the plot however- namely Shere Khan's role. In the beginning, Shere Khan, the ruthless bad guy tiger who kills animals all the time, shows jungle etiquette by giving Mowgli a head start to get out of the jungle before he kills him. How nice of you evil tiger. After one half-hearted attempt at snatching Mowgli, he devises a plan to take over the jungle (no spoilers, but something happens here) and, assuming word gets across to Mowgli, Mowgli will then come to Shere Khan and then he will kill him. So the element of a chase movie that was present in the '67 version was more lacking this time round. The tiger's patience gave Mowgli plenty of time to make new friends and have a couple sub-adventures. Even though for the larger portion of the film Khan didn't do much, he was a very scary and menacing villain in both destructive capabilities and in his manner; a worthy villain for the intelligent man-cub Mowgli. Different to 1967, he had motivation for going after Mowgli which made him a better and more intriguing character. His tale was very much a tale of revenge. I was scared of him! Parents: don't be surprised if your young one is scared too.

Favreau brought the film quality, and a great cast to go with it! Even though most of these guys where voices, you could see characteristics of their face in their character's face- especially Walken's character, which I found very interesting. The cast included Neel Sethi, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, and Giancarlo Esposito. All of their voices suited their characters perfectly. I loved re-exploring the chemistry and relationship between Mowgli and big bear Baloo. Each character brought with them their own tone when they were on-screen whether it was menacing, mysterious, lighthearted, tense, protective, or loving, this film was an emotional rollercoaster. This was actor Neel Sethi's first performance and he performed brilliantly, portraying Mowgli in a way that did justice to the character. I look forward to more of his work.

Genres were extensive due to each character's contribution. There was action, adventure, comedy, drama, family, fantasy, and thriller. It blended each of these with great finesse and the movie had great balance. Thriller was a bold addition, but just made the film all the more satisfying. Our setting was, once again, the jungle. Themes played a big part in this movie including belonging, acceptance, sacrifice, morals, revenge, undeviating love, peace, prejudice, family, journey, and teamwork. While Walt Disney focussed on telling a fun story that lets the imagination explore, Favreau concentrated on recreating this world while making the film a deeper one to be enjoyed by a wider variety of audiences. The themes created valuable morals which young audiences can learn from. Win win.

The special effects were flawless, there wasn't one instance where I doubted that a character wasn't real. There were a couple of risks made in this one, but they all worked out fine. The script was also impeccable, there were some valuable gems in it. For those who have seen the film, I especially enjoyed the story told by Sheer Khan to the baby wolves, and the law of the jungle.

The running time was longer than the average for a family film, so young audiences attention spans may wander, but I was thoroughly engaged throughout. Although there were a lot of sequences part of the 'adventure', they weren't necessarily central to the story. This may bore some. The editing kept a fair ratio of screen time to Mowgli's adventure and what was happening meanwhile at the heart of the jungle. In terms of box office performance, I don't think it will get as much as it should get mainly due to the minimal marketing and potentially other films drowning it out.

The Jungle Book doesn't have heaps it could work on, but I would say that the monkey king sequence could've been cut out, there wasn't much contribution to the story, it was mainly just killing time which didn't need to be there in the first place. Maybe you could work on the element of the chase more.

To Conclude, this is one of the first family films that i can safely say adults will enjoy watching due to their relationship with the original and its excellent quality. It's got something for everyone. Favreau was successful in conveying the intended morals and I can say that The Jungle Book has a HIGH rewatchability level. It's not surprising that this film is excellent with Disney's almost flawless track record, and I'm looking forward to Disney's 2016 films such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, Finding Dory, and the BFG.

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