The Jungle Book – Movie Review

Language : English.
Release : April 2016.
Cast : Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi.
Directed By : Jon Favreau.
Written By : Justin Marks based on the book The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
Music By : John Debney.
Genre : 3D, Fantasy.

As a popular meme goes ‘Only 90s kids will understand’ the childhood favorite song of any 90s kids in India was always the melodious ‘Jungle Jungle baat chali hai, Chaddi pehenke phool khila hai’. Everyone during “The Doordarshan Era” knew the song and it stood second only to the National Anthem in terms of popularity. It still has a strong nostalgic feel to everyone who listens to the song, bringing back their childhood, lost somewhere while growing up. While the most exciting part of rekindling your nostalgia is to relive that innocent past in the present, making it more lively and realistic than ever before, thanks to the sophistication of the ever changing technologies being incorporated in our movies.

The story begins with a man cub (Mowgli) raised by a pack of wolves, living in the jungle wanting to be avenged by the notorious Sher Khan after the water truce. Mowgli volunteer’s to leave for the safety of the wolf pack accompanied by Bagheera, but Bagheera is injured when he protects Mowgli from Sher Khan’s surprise attack. Escaping from the clutches, Mowgli finds an unusual friend in Baloo, when he saves his life, and go about merrying around the forest. When Bagheera finds them, he explains to Baloo on the looming threat to Mowgli’s life. Reluctantly Baloo forces Mowgli to go to the man village for his safety. Once Mowgli learns that his foster father, a wolf named Akeela, has been killed by Sher Khan, he escapes vowing to avenge the death. In a final battle Mowgli is joined by all the animals to rise up against Sher Khan, who fights anyone who comes in his way. This culminates in a fight between the arch rivals with wit and wisdom winning over force and vengeance as the jungle returns to peace and unity once again.

When it was announced that there would be a live action remake of the original 1967 Jungle Book, no one was more happy and sad than me, happy because I would get to see The Jungle Book again. Sad coz its live action, which was quite hard to digest as I had grown up watching the cartoon and anime version which still lingers on in my mind. This was one of my major reasons for not watching the movie in theaters when it was released. But after watching the TV premiere, I got to know how much I have missed and regretted my descision. After watching the movie, I have to say, it does bring back all my memories from my childhood.

As I watched the movie, the most striking fact was the impeccable casting. I can vouch my credibility when I say that, there has never been such an accurate voice cast. Ben Kingsley is superb when he portrays Bagheera as a predator with heart, much like our war veterans, Idris Edba as the ruthless and cunning Sher Khan, Bill Murray as the carefree Baloo and even Scarlet Scarlett Johansson as the hypnotic Kaa have not just perfected their voice casting but have etched a memory in our minds and would be difficult to be replaced considering the fact that there would definitely be sequels to this commercial success.

The director, John Favreau, continues to give us commercial success even with evident plot holes and flaws, yet always churning out movies exceeding audience expectations. This is an open truth that, had Iron Man not been a critical and commercial success, MCU wouldn’t have existed. Now I wonder what would be the super franchisee that would start with ‘The Jungle Book’ this time under the Disney stable! Not wanting to show him in bad light, he deserves complete credit for that very fact, considering the success percentage he has under his name.

On the whole movie, the major flaw that I would like to pin point would be the lead actor, Neel Sethi. Considering the budget and the general perception around the movie, he could have been trained better especially the scenes where he is around the animals. It’s clearly seen that the was a complete green screen production when he tries to talk to Baloo or Bagheera. Agreed its his first movie and we cannot expect much, but its a Disney movie with world wide release, you need to be the best you can ever be. Although, I do hope that these issues would be ironed out in the sequels.

In retrospect, we are once again fortunate to be living in an era where animation is not made only for the kids but the parents accompanying them and no longer seem visual effects but get as real as they can. With this umpteenth adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, we are spoilt for choice to choose our favorite adoption of the Novel. What stands out in this movie, as everyone guessed, the visual effects. With such impeccable work, I wonder if in future we would ever have actors, or if so would they be really interacting with what we see on screen. With movies such as Bewolf, Avatar and
series like Game of Thrones, the line between reality and visual effects has been constantly erased and redrawn over and over again and I wonder how the very same movies and series would be perceived in the future generations, considering the
rapid change in the technologies.

Audience POV
1. The best Jungle Book adaptation with great visual effects.
2. Perfect voice cast.
Critics POV
1. Clear plot holes and a lose screenplay.
2. Neel Sethi does have some way to go in terms of acting.
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