Enthralling, visually striking and dark are a few phrases to describe the marvelous depiction of the Disney classic. A well thought-out casting selection launched 12-year-old Neel Sethi into the perfect position to carry the film as the lone on-screen talent.
Bill Murray voicing Baloo, the happy-go-lucky bear was a great decision made by Director Jon Favreau and his team. Murray’s voice and demeanor gives Baloo the personality of a big brother when dealing with Mowgli. His innocent and careless tendencies are spot-on in this film.
The cinematography in this CGI-driven film is completely astounding. Director Jon Favreau added a certain element of darkness in his adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel.. which keeps viewers on the age of their seat throughout the movie. There are a handful of captivating fight scenes that showcase the emotion and attention to detail in the scripting of this live-action experience; they also exhibit what filmmakers are now capable of with special effects.
The character personalities are quite similar to how they were represented in Disney’s 1967 animated representation of “The Jungle Book.” Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) acts a stern, fatherlike figure for the young man cub as the two embark on their journey to the village. Actor Idris Elba gives the tiger and main villain life through his bone-chilling voice; adding the perfect amount of unprecedented darkness for Shere Khan. Featured as an even scarier character in this film, Shere Khan is battered with scars and burns, and the film provides a back story for him, giving justification to his anger towards mankind in a way never shown before. Scarlett Johansson is featured as Kaa as the hypnotic snake tries to take control of Mowgli. Her appearance is so minimal, that it could be considered a cameo, but this was a section of the man cub’s story that director Jon Favreau could not avoid. Last but not least, King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken): the sadistic, manipulative, wisdom-filled monkey that tries to take Mowgli under his wing. His character is introduced in a brilliant manner, using all of the cinematography tricks to create an imposing ora around the king of the swingers. With only a brief appearance (15, maybe 20 minutes), Louie breaks out into a terrific musical number, performing a modified version of “I Wanna Be Like You.” The character development of these animals was key in the progression of the movie, because it’s mostly voices that help drive the emotion and the way they are portrayed. King Louie’s appearance plays a big part in the advancement of Mowgli’s character; he grows up quickly after the monkey’s introduction.
The 2016 live-action film doesn’t follow the novel or animated feature 100%, but the new elements surely add a personalization to the movie, making it its own entity. The perception and deliverance of the enticing fight scenes is one of the most remarkable things this version has to offer. Not only are the special effects jaw-dropping, but the way the conflicts are instinctually embedded into the storyline make for a great culmination of both plot-lines and visuals. A handful of new characters are introduced in comedic fashion (even if it’s just for a short period of time): When Mowgli first meets Baloo, they are joined by a Pygmy Hog and an adorable Pangolin who provide some chuckles throughout the relationship. These animals were not showcased in the animated film, but I believe they add personality to Jon Favreau’s re-imagining of this classic story.
Speaking of Jon Favreau, and the Pygmy Hog… now seems like a good time to talk about the “cool” castings in this movie. Fever actually voiced Pygmy Hog, but that wasn’t the only role the Favreau family played.. his daughter Madeline voiced one of the rhinoceroses at the watering hole while his son Max played one of the wolf cubs/Mowgli’s brothers.
One of the differences in character traits between 1967 and 2016 is one main character’s diet. Baloo is a fan of honey.. not paw-paws or prickly pears here. Note: honey brings Baloo and Mowgli together in this particular film.
Another noticeable distinction is the abundance of animal-involvement throughout the story. Yes, I know there’s only one human and the rest are animals in all re-tellings of this novel.. but the watering hole brings all of the jungle animals together and that is where you begin to learn the food chain and the power that Shere Khan has. Oh yeah, there is a stampede scene you may find reminiscent of The Lion King, so keep an eye out for that one.
Finally, the ending. The movie ends almost abruptly, but doesn’t leave any gaps in the plot. Bagheera, Baloo and Mowgli all come full circle with their characters and you should be leaving the theater satisfied. A well-done live-action movie brought to life by Disney.