Sunday, 1 May 2016

'The Jungle Book' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

I'm going to be honest, so far I've not been a fan of the trend Disney have of recreating their classic animated movies as live action films.  I thought 'Snow White and the Huntsman' was too over the top and far removed from the original, I couldn't even get through the Tim Burton 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Maleficent' bored me senseless and I can't even be bothered with 'Cinderella'.  So, as you would expect, I groaned inwardly when they announced the new 'Jungle Book' movie.

Then the trailers began to hit and I found myself intrigued.  I went into this film with a lot of hope but little expectations.  I wanted it to be a good film but prepared myself for the worst.  I am so, so happy that my expectations were wrong as Disney and Jon Favreau bring us not only the best Disney live action remake but an all round amazing film.  

The film takes inspiration not just from the Disney original, but works in aspects of the original novel that were not used in the 1967 version.  The film takes itself entirely serious and removes most of the musical numbers and comic relief that were present in the '67 version, though 'The Bare Necessities' and 'I Wan'na Be Like You' are included.  It's better to think of this version of 'The Jungle Book' more as a family friendly 'The Revenant' than a simple remake.

The story has a nice simple through line, Mowgli is a 'man cub' that has been raised by the wolf Raksha and her pack since he was brought to them as a baby by the black panther Bagheera, but when a drought brings all of the animals in the area to the wolves territory to drink the fierce tiger Shere Khan discovers Mowgli's existence and wants to kill him.

To protect the pack and to save Mowgli, Bagheera agrees to escort the boy to the man village and away from Shere Khan.  What follows is essentially a giant chase sequence as Khan hunts the boy across the jungle.  Along the way Mowgli encounters the evil python Kaa, the friendly bear Baloo and the ruler of the monkey, the Gigantopithecus King Louie, before a final battle with the vicious tiger himself.

The story keeps things simple, and moves with a brisk pace as it goes from set piece to set piece whilst still allowing characters the chance to have breaks between the action to develop and grow.  With only an hour and forty five minute run time the film could have very easily skimped on character detail in exchange for visual spectacle, but thankfully it doesn't.

By the end of the film we have come to know the characters well enough that we care about them when they risk their lives fighting Shere Khan in order to protect Mowgli.  We see how kindhearted and caring Raksha is, how loyal and brave Bagheera is, how friendly and loving Baloo is.  They go from just simple animals to real rounded characters that leave a massive impression, more so than the films sole human character.

All of the voice cast work fantastically, and really give a sense of life and personality to each of the characters.  Often when a film is voices by traditional actors over experienced voice actors there can be a slight lack in quality.  It's important to remember that the two are very different ways of acting, and just because a person is good at one does not necessarily mean they will be good at the other, but here each and every cast member is perfect in their performance.

Normally it would be hard to pick out just one performance as a standout, but here it's quite easy.  Idris Elba as Shere Khan is absolutely amazing.  The mix of stunning visual appearance and chilling voice acting comes together to make this version of Khan one of the best Disney villains to date.  From the first moment he appears on screen to the very last second Shere Khan exude menace and charisma in such equal measures that he's incredibly captivating to watch.

My main criticism of the film is that whilst at only a little over an hour and a half long it doesn't overstay it's welcome it would have been nicer to have spent a little more time in this world with these characters, but that's just a personal preference.

'The Jungle Book' proves to be a great example of how to do a remake the right way, it stays true to the spirit of the original whilst managing to do its own thing.  The visual effects are second to none and show just what can be accomplished with enough care and dedication.  An all round entertaining and engaging film that will appeal to adults and children alike.


No comments:

Post a Comment