The Jungle Book is a film in the style of the classic tragedies in which a grizzled and scarred veteran tries to save his homeland from an invasive species with the capability of destroying the entire jungle he calls home. It is a moral tale, where he is undone by his PTSD, inability to trust and thirst for vengeance. Or, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t (as a rule) automatically root for the bad guy, The Jungle Book is about a boy raised by wolves who is trying to find out where, and how, he belongs.
I wasn’t convinced we needed another Jungle Book. After all, what was wrong with the old one? What could a remake of the Jungle Book hope to add? Especially since in this new one, Shere Kahn is straight? And make no mistake, this IS a remaking of the classic disney film, pretty much everything that was in the old one is in the new one (except the blatant racism). But it actually gains something from being live action. Scenes that were good and interesting in the original became magnificent set pieces in the new film (I’m looking at you, Monkey Temple).
I was worried what the special effects would look like. There’ve seen some pretty badly done talking animals after all. It’s one thing to have animated animals talking , it’s quite another to have CGI/Live Action animals do it. I thought there might be some kind of uncanny valley effect. But I needn’t have worried; the talking animals worked very well. I’m not sure if they were real animals with effects or computer generated from beginning to end (my money’s on the latter) but it was really effective, right down to the facial expressions. The only weird thing that Live Action did was set up (in me, at least) the expectation of more realism. There isn’t any realism here, it’s still a Disney Kids film, but that’s easier to forget when everything seems photorealistic.
It’s impressive how film-making has advanced. This film is an example of what can happen when everything is done exactly right. It was carefully written, exquisitely acted and visually perfect. And the cast – Bill Murray is (of course) hilarious, Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba were amazing. Hats off to Neel Sethi as Mogli, he did a hell of a job. And (never thought I’d say this) the Scarlett Johansson scene was my favorite in the entire film.
So is this new The Jungle Book worth watching? Yes definitely and you should probably see it in 3D which is how I saw it. I thought it would be a little dark, being live action, but it wasn’t. There were some pretty young kids in the audience and they seemed alright. It’s definitely more intense this time around, but I’m not sure I’d call it ‘darker and grittier’, thank god. Now I want to watch the original to compare.