Movie Review: The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Genre: Action (Action-Adventure)
Cast & oiceovers: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, with Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken
Writers: Justin Marks, Rudyard Kipling (Novel)
Rating: 3.6/5 stars
From the opening sequence of “The Jungle Book” itself you know that you’re in for one of those onscreen adventures that transports you to a different land. It shows our little, lost jungle boy Mowgli running along with his pack of wolves, and the entire scene offers a terrific advertisement of the excitement in store. The audience is transported to a world full of adventure and wide-eyed wonder from the word go. The luscious landscapes, stunning visual effects, breathtakingly realistic animation (every animal looks alive), and excellent use of lighting all combine to immerse you in a jungle environment that you feel you’re a part of. Not since 2009’s Avatar has a make-belief world looked so engrossing and imaginative on screen.
So our boy Mowgli is enjoying the wild life with his wolf pack and mentor Bagheera (the panther), when the jungle witnesses a drought, which forces him to go to a place called the ‘peace rock’ – where all animals can gather for a drink of water, comfortable in the knowledge that no creature can attack another. Unfortunately, our baddie Shere Khan (the tiger) has no respect for the law of man or beast, and after catching the boy’s scent vows to devour him for a tasty snack. The rest of the film demonstrates Mowgli’s journey to the other side of the jungle, where he strikes a friendship with the rolly-jolly Baloo (the bear), and his efforts along with the help of his furry friends to thwart the dinner plans of the evil Shere Khan.
Mowgli’s interactions with Baloo, Bagheera, and his adoptive mother Raksha (the wolf) are filled with many touching moments, which evoke a well of emotions within you. Director Jon Favreau and his writer Justin Marks also show a great amount of respect to the animal kingdom and refer to them as people instead. Balancing out the emotional undercurrent are the thrilling action scenes, which are put together so smoothly and are shot with such detailed planning that you are able to almost experience every pounce, leap, and narrow escape. Of course, the brilliant 3D conversion also plays a huge part over here.
Where the film falters more often than can be overlooked is in stringing together a cohesive plot to tie the wonderful set pieces and wondrous sequences together. More often than not you get the feeling that the makers have paid a great deal of attention to each scene at the cost of forgetting to link them together. In addition, some of the narrative arcs feel rushed, especially the all-too hurried climax, with more than a few plot contrivances. Thankfully, it gets saved by another striking set piece and an electrifying nail-biting action scene in the denouement.
“The Jungle Book” is no doubt a rip-roaring adventure that more than does justice to its jungle roots. It also offer yet another reason to feel optimistic about Walt Disney’s decision to turn its own animated masterpieces into live-action features. It’s just that for all its exhilarating sequences and visual grandeur, the 2016 live-version is not a ‘bare necessities’ adventure like the 1967 animated-classic.
Image Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures