Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Just got back from watching the 2016 live action adaption of The Jungle Book.

       Let me start by saying I grew up watching both the original Disney animated classic as well as the 1994 live action movie with Jason Scott Lee and Sam Neil directed by Mummy director Stephen Sommers. While I found both movies to be fun and enjoyable, I didn't really think a remake of the classic story was necessary. That's not to say I didn't have any faith in the film, I like Jon Favreau and felt that he would be an ideal choice for bringing the animated cartoon to life as I enjoyed his work on Iron Man, Zathura, and Cowboys And Aliens. Upon seeing the trailer for this movie when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was hooked instantly. The whole outlook of the movie looks visually stunning as if the story that we all know and grew up witnessing as a cartoon is coming to life before our very eyes. At that point, I had little to no doubt that this movie wouldn't meet expectations. Now that I've seen the film, I can safely say that Jon Favreau has done the unthinkable and turned a classic Disney story into a worthy live action remake, that redefines all the possibilities of the same story being retold for a new generation.
      The Jungle Book is a highly entertaining, charming, beautifully shot and well-executed film that does the greatest justice to the original movie while crafting its own version of the classic tale. Both movies can stand apart from each other and be watched as separate films, even though they essentially tell the same story but have different things to offer. The original has great music and nostalgia while Favreau's version capitalizes on the storytelling being told in grand fashion with top notch technology, great cinematography, beautiful art-set decoration, and a talented cast driving it among the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, and Christopher Walken. The story plays out much like the original with a young boy named Mowgli, who flees the jungle after being threatened by the tiger Shere Khan. With the help of the panther Bagheera voiced by Ben Kingsley and the bear Baloo voiced by Bill Murray, Mowgli goes on a journey that involves self-discovery, although he comes across creatures that have ulterior motives such as the giant snake Kaa voiced by Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken as King Louie. With all of these actors bringing their A game to this story with the best works coming from Murray who proves to be a fantastic Baloo injecting heart into his performance, and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, who acts like father figure to Mowgli, it is the performance of Neel Sethi as Mowgli that makes the film work. He does a fantastic job with making the audience adore as well as care a great deal about this character during his journey of self discovery. This character experiences so much during his journey and has so many intense encounters with non friendly animals that he gives Leonardo Dicaprio's journey in The Revenant a run for it's money minus the gore. The character of Shere Khan played by Idris Elba, makes for a strong villain as he comes off as being both intimidating and terrifying. The climatic scene between him and Mowgli is one of the best moments of the entire movie as its both visually spectacular and powerfully acted. The film flies by at a fast paced but never feels boring instead leaves you wanting more.
      What made the original 1967 The Jungle Book a classic film, is the expressive animation that the film showcased making its characters come alive as well as making you emotionally care about them becoming invested in their journey, and the catchy songs that appeared randomly throughout the film like the shark frequently popping out in Jaws. Watching the live action adaptation of The Jungle Book, it is apparent that Jon Favreau and his team studied the original very closely in order to successfully carry over those ingredients into their own film. The 2016 film possesses all of these great traits but takes advances in both its storytelling and technology. The catchy songs are still present but this time rather than hearing the voices of the original people singing them, it's the new cast that represents the lyrics and does them very well. I honestly can't imagine anyone who wouldn't get a kick out of Christopher Walken's King Louie's song I Wanna Be Like You. The CGI in this film is stunning as the animals are brought to life and speak to Mowgli like its actually happening. Whereas the original film used expressive animation, this movie uses CGI that conveys the same kind of expression only this time it looks and feels real. People will instantly fall in love with the character of Baloo in terms of look and realism, while being afraid of Idris Elbas Shere Khan and terrified of the snake Kaa.  Long after this film is over, one will still be thinking about the awesomeness of the jungle set feeling like it's a place that you would love to explore and wonder through. If this movie doesn't receive Oscar noms for Best Art-Set Decoration, Best Visual Effects, and Best Cinematography, then the Academy would be doing this film as well as Disney a great injustice. The film is completely engrossing to watch as once the film begins, you will become immediately pulled into this world and become richly invested in Mowgli's journey.
      In regards to remakes, Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is one of the rare ones that actually lives up to it's predecessor and improves upon it. The movie is rich and grand in it's scope, and leaves you with a feeling of awe when exiting the movie theater. There is no other way to experience this movie than watching it on the big screen as this movie was essentially a labor of love by the filmmakers with a simple mission of taking this story and reintroducing it to the new generation. The success of this movie redefines all the possibilities of what remakes can be and will give audiences more faith in Disney's plans to do further transformations of old classics into live action movies. With the success of Cinderella 2015 and now The Jungle Book, one can look towards the upcoming live action movies The Legend Of Tarzan, and Beauty And The Beast with more optimism. This is a grand slam for Disney, Favreau, and the whole team who worked tirelessly to bring this story back to the big screen in an incredible way. This movie is all heart and has a a great dose of humanity to it which often at times, makes it feel like a miracle in todays climate of filmmaking.  One of the years best movies so far and one that commands the entire family to experience it on the big screen. See it on IMAX if possible.