One of my first ever memories of going to the cinema would have been to see the re-release of Disney’s animated 1967 classic, The Jungle Book.
Since then, it has had an animated sequel and in 1994 Disney made a live action version, starring Jason Scott Lee; John Cleese; Sam Neill and Lena Headey. Various spin-offs featuring Mowgli’s adventures have followed, all heading on the direct to DVD route!
Fast forward to 2016 and Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel has returned to the big screen again for Disney, under the helm of director Jon Favreau.
Having seen some trailers, this looked to be very much like the 1967 animated film, retold by replacing all the drawn animals with CGI versions of the real animals, and it looked like it did so with great effect.
Now Favreau has made some great fun blockbuster films, Elf; Made; Zathura and Iron Man but more recently, it would be fair to say his more recent blockbusters have been disappointing, Iron Man 2, and in particular, Cowboys & Aliens, so we were not quite sure what to expect.
Well, the Jungle Book is a real treat! It is as good as his original Iron Man and much like his recent smaller film Chef! This is a film that has great character, so much so, you soon forget you are watching CGI creatures. This goes down to a great performance from Neel Sethi, the newcomer, playing the film’s predominant live action character, Mowgli. He is as good as any of the big name Hollywood star voiced, CGI characters in the film!
The film opens with Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) telling us how Mowgli has been brought up by the wolves of the jungle, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and their pack of cute wolf cubs!
We learn later in the film that this was because Mowgli, was abandoned in the jungle as a child, when his father was attacked by menacing tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba)
When a drought hits the jungle, everything changes, the animals all head to the last remaining patch of water. The water level normally covers the rock in the middle, but now it is exposed. Animal law of the jungle, states that all can drink what is left,without fear of being attacked. At this drinking station, Shere Khan sees Mowgli for the first time, when with the wolf pack!
Khan was attached by humans and sees them only as hunters! He demands the wolves hand over Mowgli or he will attack them instead, once the rock is again fully submerged, when the rains come again.
At this point, you start fearing for the wolves, especially the young defenceless cubs! We have to tell you, we were having flashbacks to John Wick, during theses moments, and that is a testament to how good the storytelling is, that by now you have forgotten these animals are all CGI created and are fearing for their lives!
Mowgli, well aware of what the wolves have done for him, makes the decision to return to the man village, to protect them from Khan! These scenes are heartbreaking for the cubs and Raksha, who treat him as a brother and son. With the aid of Bagheera, Mowgli leaves the camp to head for a life outside the jungle and to be with his own kind!
Whilst on their journey, they come face to face with Khan! Bagheera creates a diversion for Mowgli to escape, telling him where they will meet again.
Once at the meeting place, Mowgli comes face to face, and falls under the hypnotic spell of a huge snake, Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) but is saved by, who we are all waiting for, Baloo (Bill Murray) the honey-loving slightly lazy bear with a big heart!
If Kaa telling Mowgli to trust in me, didn’t bring memories flooding back, Bill Murray’s Baloo singing The Bare Necessities will. These scenes with Baloo, after all the menacing threat of Khan, who has again been to see the wolves, with horrifying results, are much needed fun to a film, that feel surprisingly dark in tone!
Bagheera returns to the scene, and with the help of Baloo, convinces Mowgli he does need to return to his kind, to save the lives of the jungle animals.
This journey will see Mowgli captured by King Louie (Christopher Walken) desperate for the secret to making fire, and we get another trip down nostalgia lane, with a new version of I wanna be like you!
After a break out, with the help of Baloo and Bagheera, Mowgli learns Khan has attached the wolves and immediately heads to the village, to find fire.
In a vengeful rage, he runs with the fire to face Khan, causing devastating results to the jungle. We will leave you to see how this ends!
This really is a must see film! Disney, with this, have got themselves a box office monster, and with Zootropolis as well, are still clear leaders of making family entertainment.
A sequel has already been planned due to the box office performance of this film, which is probably not surprising, What will be interesting is how Warner Brothers version, being directed by Andy Serkis will match up, it certainly has a tough match to follow. In addition, Disney appear to be looking at their animated back catalogue, to see what else they can bring to life,
In addition, Disney appear to be looking at their animated back catalogue, to see what else they can bring to life! Pete’s Dragon is up next, and talks of Peter Pan and Dumbo are believed to be taking place.
What Animated film would you love brought to life? Do you like this idea for films? We would love to hear your thoughts on this or the Jungle book, here at Barking Mad About Films!
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