Disney has been taking their animated library and digging deep into them to bring them into the world of live action films. Some have worked and of course some not so much, but there is no denying that they have created some visual treats. Now director Jon Favreau has stepped into the ring to bring his live action adaptation of The Jungle Book to the big screen with an awesome cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling and newcomer Neel Sethi, but does it do the source material justice or will it be a story that should have stayed in the animated jungle?
The Jungle Book follows an orphan boy who is raised in the jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear, and a black panther, but when a human hating tiger sets his sites on the young boy he is forced to trek back towards the world of man. The trailers for this movie have been pretty impressive, but they can often be deceiving. This isn’t the first time The Jungle Book has been adapted to live action, but it is the first that seems to really capture to the overall essence of the story. Watching this you can see the animated version of the film step into the real world to near perfection. Favreau made the genius decision to not try and force the Hollywood mentality into the film and add more human characters to the story and instead just let the animals stand front and center. The attention to detail with each of the animals is amazing and obviously extremely important for this film to work. It’s hard to imagine that you can buy into these talking animals in a story like this in a serious way, but it does in fact work great. There are some that are such big fans of the original book or animated feature that they may have reservations, but rest assured the film works. Surprisingly they even worked in a couple of songs into the film and one works great and while it was fun to see it in action the second felt a bit out of place.
The visuals of the film work perfectly with the backdrop as though these actual animals exist. There are so many great things about seeing these animals interacting like this, but the real standout is the look of Shere Khan as both a tiger and the visual facial scars makes him all the more of a menacing villain. The voice cast all work great with Elba bringing his sinister tone to Khan and Murray with his usual dry yet light hearted personality to Baloo. The only real character that will likely be a mixed bag for some will be Walken’s take on King Louie. He takes it in a more mob boss approach that does work and takes the fun out of the character and makes him a bit more of a scary character. Some might hate that approach, but if you really think about who the character is and what he is up to it fits. The attention to details of the way the animals move and then merging them with the specific dialogue and attitude makes them compelling and a lot of fun to watch. Newcomer Neel Sethi does an ok job, but at times struggles with some of the dialogue. Most of his issues just come with lack of experience, but as the film moves forward he finds his rhythm and ends up doing a great job bringing Mowgli to life.
In the end this film works to perfection to bring this classic tale to life, but still may not work to convert those hardcore doubters to check it out. It is easily the best of the live action adaptations that Disney has brought to the big screen so far. Whether you are a fan of the classic animated film or not this is one of those films that you should check out on the big screen. The 3D doesn’t offer up all that much, but the IMAX does bring that lush jungle environment to the next level like only it can. Hopefully this film will score the box office it deserves as Disney is already in talks for a franchise and it would be cool to see these characters in action again.