MonsterStomp's Thoughts - The Jungle Book (2016)
By MonsterStomp 5 Comments
I didn't want to call this a review, because I honestly don't have anything to say from a critical standpoint. This isn't a detailed analysis, its just me voicing my opinion. So without further ado, lets kick this off.
For disclosure, though, I never really intended to see this movie. I just found myself at the cinema one day, just looking to have a bit of time to myself and The Jungle Book seemed like the only appealing film to watch at the time. I must say though, I've never seen the original, or at least I remember very little of it. From what I gather, it seemed like a rather mediocre film, so suffice to say I went into this movie with a slightly lower expectation than usual. I will say, however, that it was my time worth investing! The Jungle Book ticked so many boxes. Its an emotional rollercoaster and any film which can cripple my otherwise hard nature with its superb execution of storytelling, deserves a spot as my favourite film in 2016 (so far).
The Jungle Book harbours a fairly straightforward plot, in fact its a retelling of the original picture, so you can expect a lot of ideas being cherry-picked from the 1967 film. However, director Jon Favreau adds just enough of his own "twist", if you will, to reinvigorate the film which, in turn, truly gives it a breath of fresh air.
The story follows Mowgli on his journey for self-discovery. He's trying to find out where he stands in the jungle, if not fits it. Mowgli soon meets his adversary, Shere Khan, a beautiful yet intimidating tiger who has his own personal reasons for wanting Mowgli dead. Between Bagheera trying to get Mowgli to safety to Shere Khan hunting him down, it makes for a riveting and gripping adventure.
Most of the film's success is due to its phenomenal delivery of its three-act structure. Everything is well established and flows so seamlessly, and there's no real issue of fast pacing or misdirection. By the time the third act hits, you feel lifted and overjoyed with the outcome.
Personally, I felt a sense of pride with Mowgli, which was an uplifting experience I've never felt before. Here's a young orphan who is distinctly different than everyone else due to his "tricks" or inventions, yet the same thing that gets him barred is the same thing that helps him determine his place, and for that I felt a genuine admiration toward him, especially by the end of the film. Bagheera is Mowgli's soul protector, and is responsible for suggesting that he'd be safer in his own niche. Bagheera is a more structured and disciplinary figure within Mowgli's life and typically likes to view situations as glass half empty.
Baloo, by contrast, sees the glass half full. He shines new perspective on Mowgli's predicament, and is a great comic relief who lightens the film up from its otherwise dark tone. Which brings me swiftly to Shere Khan, who is quite possibly the most attractive yet threatening villain I've ever seen in a Disney picture. Shere Khan is the prime reason the film is filled with nerve-racking moments, while simultaneously making it all the more compelling to see how an underwhelming protagonist can defy the impossible.
Mowgli was played impressively by Neel Sethi. I say impressively, not only because he has little to no track record, but he is a kid and for his first live-action appearance you could imagine the kind of pressure he was able to overcome. Especially since he pretty much worked off the green screen. Bottom line, Neel was a convincing Mowgli and was satisfying to watch in all of his scenes. Now I could go ahead and give Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), Bill Murray (Baloo) and the rest of the cast of voice actors a round of applause for their overall solid performances. However the real standing ovation goes to Idris Elba for the voicing of Shere Khan. Elba's voice is so powerfully fitting for a creature so formidable and dangerous. Coupled with a great script, Elba made every spoken word spine-chilling. Certainly one for the highlight reel.
Unlike the original, this film isn't a musical. There's a throwback scene where Mowgli and Baloo are singing "Bear Necessities" in a fun and natural manner. I actually found myself rhythmically tapping my feet, despite disliking the original. I was smiling in the theatre, probably more nostalgic than anything. Then there's another throwback scene where King Louie is singing "I want to be like you", which felt a little out of place for my liking, but nothing too decisive.
John Debney did a fantastic job of taking the original soundtrack and making it 2016. Its enough to feel nostalgic, but you also know its new. So John gets mad props on the music composition. Although when the dust settles and the fun stops, this movie is significantly darker than the original, which is highlighted through its intense and foreboding music.
Visually, this piece is sublime. The vegetation of the jungle landscape is lush and plentiful, the animals are accurately illustrated with surprising realism, and even though the visuals are mostly artificial, you can't deny the lucid beauty that lurks beneath every cinematic shot. Even the facial expressions convey emotions and is presently done with every character - obviously pivotal in procuring emotional responses from me. I'd be hard pressed to find a fault in an overall consistent CGI. In fact, it doesn't cease to amaze me.
Highly recommended: 9/10
Even if you're not a fan of the original or you're delving into the movie clueless, you can expect an overall impressive storytelling and splendid performances. It has enough throwback material to make you feel nostalgic, even if you did dislike or can't remember the original picture in the slightest. I'm definitely buying this on blu-ray as soon as its release.