Making a live-action version of a beloved Disney classic must be a daunting task for a director. Thankfully it’s a task that director Jon Favreau flourishes in with his take on The Jungle Book. We’ve seen other Disney classics such as Cinderella get live-action remakes however, The Jungle Book is by far and away the best of them.
You all know the story however, this is more of a reimagining rather than a straight up remake that finds man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi), raised by a pack of wolves after being found as a baby by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), fleeing the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba).
On his journey through the jungle, Mowgli comes across an array of characters including the bear Baloo (Bill Murray), the snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken), not all of them having his best interests at heart.
With the majority of characters being talking animals and the humans being kept down to a bare minimum, I always thought The Jungle Book as one of the hardest Disney animations to convert to live-action. I was skeptical about how the talking animals would look but thankfully my mind was put at ease within the film’s opening scene.
The Jungle Book throws the audience straight into an immersive jungle setting that is rather staggeringly all created with CGI. Aside from a few props and Mowgli himself, everything else you see is brought to life through the use of the latest technologies in special effects. It makes for a truly stunning cinematic experience with the photorealistic animals and jungle setting transporting the audience right into the heart of the story.
The story itself is simple enough and while Favreau clearly wanted to pay homage to it, he also wanted to put his own stamp on it. He’s certainly retained the fun side of things while making it that little bit darker with more of an emphasis on the peril facing Mowgli, mainly from Shere Khan. From the very off, The Jungle Book is a rip-roaring adventure film that doesn’t let up until the very end. Keep an ear out for one or two familiar songs throughout as well.
Neel Sethi gives an admirable performance as Mowgli, capturing his cockiness and naivety incredibly well but the real highlights come in the voice performances. Bill Murray is just about the perfect casting for Baloo and he nails the essence of Baloo’s laid back lifestyle perfectly. Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o do well with the authoritative Bagheera and Raksha, the latter bringing real emotion to the adoptive mother of Mowgli.
On the villainous side of things, Idris Elba excels as the fearsome Shere Khan, relentless in his pursuit of Mowgli. The voice is so important for a character such as Shere Khan and Elba really can produce a sinister voice when he wants to. Christopher Walken is good as King Louie and I was left a bit disappointed at how little Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa was in the film. She did well with what she was in so maybe we will hear her more in the already announced sequel.
The Jungle Book really is a great adventure that provides plenty of entertainment for people of all ages. If further live-action Disney remakes are anything like this then we could be in for some right treats.