Live actions remakes are the ticket at the moment. After the success of Maleficent they have really taken off. Emma Watson is playing Belle in the upcoming Beauty and Beast remake, the fella from True Blood is Tarzan and Emma Stone is playing Cruella. In fact this wont be the only Jungle Book we’ll see. My friend Pie who only likes one film, The Lion King, is petrified of them announcing a remake of that. As I’ve said before however I give remakes a chance. The people involved in the production are doing it as a labour of love even if the studio does it for easy cash. I however never really got in to the Jungle Book as a kid and thus wasn’t too excited about this film.
Of course we all know the story. Mowgli is a child living in the jungle, joined by his friends Bagheera and Baloo who are a panther and a bear respectively. As Bagheera tries to convince him to leave the jungle, due to a threat on his life from the tiger Shere Khan, Mowgli gets up to all kinds of trouble, meeting many interesting animals and characters along the way. With an all star cast of Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Bill “Fuckin'” Murray taking a foray in to voice acting, the film follows the same basic plot of the original Jungle Book with one or two differences, most notably the end.
This film is beautiful. An odd way to describe a film I know, but the visuals are spectacular. Looking at the way the animals look and move it’s clear that the cruel practice of having real animals in films should become a thing of the past. The scenery is stunning as well it really plummets you in to Mowgli’s world. Jon Favreau is someone I’ve always considered a lucky man, because he’s made a ton of money on films that need very little direction. I can’t imagine he had to tell Robert Downey Jr. how to be Iron Man since he actually is Iron Man. However taking on the challenge of a world that is 90% visual effects and getting a stunning performance from the young Neel Sethi is no small feat so respect where it is due.
The voice acting is all done very well, however personally the huge names using their own voices rather took me out of the film. For a kid this won’t be an issue as I’m sure they don’t know who Stringer Bell is, but for me I couldn’t help but see the actor rather than the animal. With the exception however of Scarlett Johansson who previously captivated audiences with just her voice in Her.If I was a child I would be petrified when she is voicing the snake Kaa. One of the best bits of casting I’ve seen in a long time. Christopher Walken on the other hand gave us what sounded like a spoken word version of I Wanna Be Like You and for the rest of the time didn’t seem to be trying. I hate to criticise Walken, the guy is a legend, but he appeared to put very little effort in.
The message seemed to change from the original Jungle Book. The original seemed to be a story of how we should stick with our own kind and Mowgli’s differences are a negative thing. Kipling was obviously notoriously racist against the people in India, despite living there. Rightly so this film took that message and flipped it. Mowgli being different ended up saving his life, the life of a baby elephant and gaining him mass acceptance in the Jungle. Rather than being enticed by a little girls back to the man village he stays with the only family he has ever known. Instead of acting like them however he acts more like himself which is a great message to be sending to children.
The film contains a lot of heart, a lot of laughs and some seriously cute wolf cubs that even I couldn’t help releasing a little “aww” over. Disney have time and time again proved they are here to stay as one of the best creators of content on the planet. My biggest regret is not being able to watch this film as a child myself. There was a kind behind me in the cinema who was rather audible in their reactions and they seemed genuinely amazed, terrified and moved. I think as I was sat there I witnessed the birth of a brand new film fanatic and that alone means this film for me is one of the biggest shocks of the year thus far. Rather than a weak remake with no inspiration it is a vast improvement on a classic and that is something that doesn’t happen often. Maybe Pie should be preying for a Lion King reboot after all.