REVIEW: The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book Poster

Theatrical Release Poster – Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures

The following is a review of Disney’s The Jungle Book, a Jon Favreau Film. The reviewed film was seen in IMAX 3D.

Jon Favreau is a great director that has shown his talents both with blockbusters, like Iron Man, and with smaller, personal films, like Chef, so when he was announced for the ‘live-action’ Disney remake of the famous Rudyard Kipling stories the film community was very excited. I am so happy to write here that The Jungle Book might be the very best film Favreau has ever made, as well as Disney’s best attempt at improving and updating an animated classic.

Disney’s The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi), a human child raised by a pack of wolves, as he tries to fit in with the jungle animals. But one day the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) shows up during a water truce and swears that he will take down the wolf pack if Mowgli isn’t turned over to him so that he can kill the boy.

Bagheera, a black panther, (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley) therefore agrees to guide Mowgli through the jungle and bring him back to a human village. But the terrifying Shere Khan is prepared to stop the journey right away, thus forcing Mowgli to traverse the jungle without the wise Bagheera.

Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, is the only real thing in The Jungle Book. Seethi was acting in front of green screens and puppets in a Los Angeles sound studio. But what Disney and Favreau has made here is much more than what one could have feared. It is as visually grand as Avatar and Life of Pi, and I, personally, enjoyed The Jungle Book much more than those other two films.

But, like Avatar, Life of Pi, and Gravity, this is a film that you owe yourself to watch in IMAX in the movie theater. It is an impressive cinematic experience thanks to Jon Favreau and Justin Marks’ vision, the splendid CGI, and the impressive voice acting performances.

Lupita Nyong’o’s performance as the voice of Raksha really impressed me, and was, in my opinion, the standout voice acting performance. However, Bill Murray, as the voice of Baloo, and Christopher Walken, as the voice of King Louie, were very strong as well.

But the one character that will be on everybody’s lips as they leave the theater is Shere Khan. Idris Elba voices Shere Khan and does a great job with the best antagonist that I’ve seen so far this year. Whenever Shere Khan is in a scene he grabs it by the throat and demands attention from the audience. As soon as he is introduced to the audience during the water truce the film starts to take a pleasing and terrifying turn. Shere Khan is frightening in this film. You get why Shere Khans wants Mowgli.

But one of the villains isn’t used very well. Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, isn’t really in more than one scene, and even though that scene is effective, I would’ve liked to see the film do more with the character. And my only other prominent negative is that I thought the film sidelined its main antagonist for too long, while Mowgli was with Baloo or King Louie.

Now, Neel Sethi is pretty much the only live-action actor on screen in the film, and he deserves some praise as well. It isn’t easy to do your entire acting performance in front of green screens and puppeteers, but somehow Seethi manages to do a great job here. I imagine that Jon Favreau worked very hard with the kid, and he should also be praised for really making this child actor help the film, when a child actor easily could’ve ruined what has ended up as a visual masterpiece.

However, I would worry about showing this film to young kids. The film is violent and Shere Khan is effective, scary, and is, essentially, nightmare fuel. But The Jungle Book is very impressive, and I am certain that it will be remembered fondly for years to come. I have not read Rudyard Kipling’s stories, but I can say that Disney’s new take on The Jungle Book is the best version of the stories on the big screen yet. It is masterful, it is glorious, and it is a visual masterpiece.

9 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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