I enjoyed ‘The Jungle Book’ a lot. There were plenty of moments and characters that really wowed me. I just didn’t walk away from it loving it as much as several of my friends and some of the other critics I follow. When someone isn’t as blown away by a film that gets near universal praise from critics and audiences, that person (people) often react in two different ways. One is to call the movie “overrated.” That’s a ridiculous thing to do as people are allowed to have their own opinions and some films just inspire a higher percentage of people to enthusiastically praise it. Another reaction is to question one’s own opinion. Also ridiculous: we aren’t robots. I still really liked ‘The Jungle Book.’ I enjoyed it a lot more than the 1967 animated version (This one hits most of the same plot points, but with a very different tone- interesting how the same source material can inspire such different interpretations) and it was definitely superior to the 1990s adaptation. I just fell short of loving it. Granted, I saw it in regular 3D rather than IMAX, and could feel that the images weren’t as immersive as they were meant to be in that format. Ultimately, there were several performances and moments that I really loved, but overall I just liked it. It is playing at all mainstream theaters across the country and is worth the time and money. I probably won’t pre-order it on Amazon, but may pick it up at the store if I happen to walk past it and has the disposable income.
The best element of the film was Ben Kingsley as Bagheera. His narration was absolute perfection. I could listen to it all day. The character was also visually stunning. His expressions and movement build the character as much as his words. His interaction with Mowgli and Baloo did a great job of conveying the relationship between those characters. I really liked Mowgli in this film too. Neel Sethi is one of those kids who gives a genuinely great performance, rather than being an annoying kid. Mowgli shows that he is intelligent and resourceful throughout. There is a great theme of embracing one’s self and one’s strength rather than trying to suppress one’s own nature in order to fit in. In the beginning Mowgli is being raised by wolves. Bagheera tries to get him to suppress his human instincts and conform to the ways of the wolves because he, Bagheera, feels that it is the only way to keep Mowgli safe. There is a wonderful scene where Bagheera sees Mowgli use some ingenuity to save a baby elephant from a pit and realizes that perhaps Mowgli should embrace his own gifts. It really works out well in his climatic confrontation with Shere Khan. There is definitely a theme of the notion that man certainly can be a destructive and dangerous force on nature, but man does not have to be a destructive and dangerous force on nature. In fact, man can work to help nature. I love Bill Murray as Baloo, but wasn’t blow away by the visual of the character. The CGI just wasn’t as good as some of the other characters.
In General, the GLI on the larger characters was much better than the CGI on the smaller characters. King Louie has some fantastic animation in his face, even though some of the smaller monkeys weren’t quite as convincing. Lupita Nyong was superior as Raksha. There was no doubt about the character’s maternal love for Mowgli. She had some great interaction with Shere Khan. There is an especially disquieting scene where he quietly threatens the lives of her wolf cubs. It may be the most tense scenes in the film and that includes the scene where Mowgli is nearly swallowed by Kaa and a forest fire near the end. As much as I get nervous about the possibility of my favorite British actors being type case as villains, Idris Elba gave a pretty darn awesome performance. I didn’t think the CGI scars on his face were as good as they could have been, but the portrayal of the character was utterly solid. Again, there were a lot of terrific moments and elements of this film, overall, I thought of it as great, just not awesome.