When I first heard that Disney were going to be releasing a live action remake of the 1967 animated film The Jungle Book, I’m not sure my brain was fully capable of understanding the complexities of such an undertaking. ‘But how will they get the animals to look like they’re talking?’ I asked anybody who would listen. As it turns out, I was surpassing even my own levels of idiocy; the animals and environments would actually be created entirely using computer animation, but trust me – when you see this film, you’ll sure as hell think they’re real.
“I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the housE.”
The adaptation follows a similar plot line to the classic story that we all know and love. Raised by a pack of wolves, ‘man cub’ Mowgli is warned to leave the jungle following threats from terrifying tiger Shere Khan, who insists that man has no place in the wild. Now, I know what you’re all thinking – Disney live action remakes aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be (I mean, did you see Cinderella?), but trust me – this one is different. For starters, it’s not entirely adapted from its animated predecessor, as director Jon Favreau picks and chooses elements from Rudyard Kipling’s classic text as well as drawing inspiration from the Disney classic. Favreau’s direction brings a set of fresh ideas to this well-loved tale, creating something new, exciting, and sometimes even dangerous. He carefully crafts a world of adventure in which the audience can lose themselves, enabling them not simply to watch Mowgli’s jungle journey, but to experience it alongside him.
With a cast as brilliant as Mowgli is brave, it’s almost impossible to single out star performers, but I’d be mad not to declare Idris Elba as utterly faultless in his sinister performance as Shere Khan. Scarlett Johansson also certainly makes a chilling impression in her single scene as python Kaa, while Lupita Nyong’o’s vocal talent cannot be understated, bringing intense emotion in the role of Raksha – I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as she said goodbye to Mowgli before he returned to the ‘man village’. Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray are perfect choices for Mowgli’s companions Bagheera and Baloo respectively, and special mention must go to Favreau’s vocal cameo as a little pygmy hog – watch out for him in perhaps the most comical scene of the film.
“you absolutely must see this film.”
Meanwhile, newcomer Neel Sethi shines as ‘man cub’ Mowgli, the only character that is actually real. I can hardly fathom the challenges of filming such immense scenes solely in a Los Angeles warehouse, but Sethi pulls it off with the ease and grace of a seasoned pro. You’d never know that he was actually acting with puppets and blue screens, and I love to imagine his reaction watching the film for the first time: seeing himself floating along rivers, swinging through treetops and even riding a baby elephant. Sethi brings a beautiful sense of innocence to the role as well as maturity well beyond his years and was never outshone by the huge Hollywood names starring alongside him; this kid is one to watch.
There’s no other way to conclude this review than by saying that you absolutely must see this film. From chase sequences and stampedes to wolf cubs and a singing bear, there’s something for everyone. Revolutionary technology previously used in Avatar and Gravity enables Favreau to put a contemporary twist on a beloved classic, creating a visual masterpiece that will no doubt stand the test of time.
Just don’t ask me specifics about how they achieved such a feat – I’ll probably end up telling you how they trained the animals to talk.