King Louie intimidates Mowgli in his ancient temple. (Disney Studios)
Production companies often try to remake classic films, usually unsuccessfully. Disney did not attempt to simply remake “The Jungle Book,” instead they created another original.
Director John Favreau, who also directed Elf and Iron Man, reinvents the 1967 animated film with a star-studded cast, thrilling visuals and storyline more reminiscent of Kipling’s novel than the original Disney movie.
The film follows Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub who was raised by wolves in the jungles of India, on his quest to “find a people” and avoid being killed by the evil tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). A black panther named Bhageera (Ben Kingsley) and a sloth bear named Baloo (Bill Murray) aid Mowgli on his epic adventure to create on-screen magic.
Favreau made an interesting decision to cast Sethi, a newcomer who has never acted before, as the films’ lead character and it paid off. Sethi is able to capture the wonder and amazement we all feel on his face throughout the movie. What is even more impressive is that he was able to convey such expression while staring at a green screen for most of filming.
To compliment the freshness of Sethi, Favreau chose an all-star cast to voice the animals. Not only did the choices add credibility to the films acting but the specific choice of actor seem to fit the animal character perfectly.
Scarlett Johansson is cast as the hypnotic and enchanting rock python Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o is Mowgli’s protective and adoptive Indian wolf mother Raksha and Christopher Walken voices the all-powerful and respect commanding giant Bornean orangutan King Louie.
While Sethi and the other actors were incredibly important, it was the special effects and animation that set this move apart. The fourth classic Disney movie to be remade into a live-action film will not be the last. Other movies like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Maleficent” pioneered the genre, but “The Jungle Book” just took the ceiling off of it.
The combination of live acting and all immersing animation is the stuff dreams are made of. Movies have always tried to bridge the worlds of reality and imagination but lacked the ability to really make you believe the unbelievable until recently.
Disney and Favreau use the technology to create visually stunning scenes that rival any movie that has been made. It was absolutely incredible to see the way the matted, dreaded hair of King Louie swung in the wind or the detail of Shere Khan’s blind eye during a close up.
While the film does not focus on the character’s musical numbers it does incorporate a few favorites from the original movie. Bali’s “Bear Necessities” and King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You” are both sung by their respective actors in the modern rendition.
The movie had something for all ages. It definitely was not the cute, cuddly version from the ’60s, but it still paired plenty of nostalgia paired with thrilling and bold action sequences. Favreau is able create something for the fan of the novel or the fan of the original movie.
“The Jungle Book” released on Thursday, April 14 2016 and is rated PG.