Disney’s The Jungle Book is one of the most iconic pieces of animation from the 20th Century and rightfully is considered a masterpiece.
There were borderline hysterical reactions to the idea of a remake with live action elements. Thankfully, Jon Favreau and his technical wizards have created a new standard for animated movies aiming for photo-realistic backdrops and characters.
Let’s start with the absolute best part of the film, they might as well be real it’s that good. Apart from the very beginning and King Louie’s appearance the visuals were 100% believable and it was easy to lose myself and just go with the film. It’s not necessarily the detail on Baloo’s fur that sells you on the visuals it is foliage and water that got me, I still can’t imagine it as blocks in a computer.
At times, the talking animals did look a bit odd compared to how imposing and interesting they were just wandering around like the elephants for example.
Neel Sethi is good, I don’t agree with some of the overrated praise he is receiving. There was at least 10 times when I was thinking ‘Really? This was the best take they could get?’. Now I understand that he’s a child being asked to carry a movie with heavyweight actors in voice roles outshining him at every step and he does a brilliant job visually with his movement and interaction with what I can only assume were green people surrounded by green boxes. However in a year where Jacob Tremblay, a child 3 years his junior, gave one of the most honest and brutal performances around it’s hard to compete.
Voice wise everyone is on point (love the Sam Raimi cameo, oh yeah I noticed) apart from two people and ironically it’s where Disney usually get this kind of thing right. The Villains.
As a Londoner I love watching Idris Elba in anything but it’s not a coincidence that his most famous role is still in HBO’s The Wire, a lot of that is down to how convincing his accent is compared to his famous London baritone. In The Jungle Book I don’t see Shere Khan, I see Idirs Elba voicing Shere Khan which is the exact opposite of what should’ve happened. If they got someone with a bit more growl in the voice like Tom Waits it would’ve been more convincing as a tiger.
As for Christopher Walken, his voice is brilliant as is his brief appearance as King Louie. Either unintentionally or purposely making reference to Apocalypse Now was a lovely surprise and the shadowed domain of the monkey king remains the most memorable part of the film, for me, and when we see the Gigantopithecus (ARK: Survival Evolved fans will recognise that name) it’s actually quite imposing and scary… then he started singing. Now I’ll pay to hear Walken sing ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ every day however as a 10 foot ape it seemed so out of nowhere and made no sense that everything they had worked for in terms of atmosphere and tension was gone in an instant.
Special mention to Lupita Nyong’o for being an awesome wolf, no analysis needed. She makes an awesome wolf. I’m not talking about Bill Murray because he’s just doing Bill Murray again.
I honestly don’t see why some outfits have lauded this movie as some sort of undisputed champion of modern cinema. It’s a very good movie and visually stunning both 3D and 2D but in the end it’s just The Jungle Book but not as good.