THE JUNGLE BOOK is a collection of stories by English author Rudyard Kipling that was first published not last century, the century before, in 1893/94 to be precise. It tells stories taken from inspiration of Kipling’s early life living in India, he lived there until he was six and then moved to England until he returned to India at about sixteen years old. He wrote the short stories when he was about twenty seven and living in Vermont. I can see the beauty and the inspiration of a fond childhood inspired these timeless classics. It is now 123yrs after pen went to paper by Kipling that Iron Man director, Jon Favreau, brings us a CGI live action version that sees the greatest CGI so far on the big screen. THE JUNGLE BOOK is out Thursday 7th April in Australia, again from the fantastic wizards at Disney. It is PG rated and runs for 105mins.
BY JASON KING
THE JUNGLE BOOK is one of my all time favourite stories, the 1967 Disney animation is one of my favourite movies and it tells the fabled story of a boy who is left stranded in the jungle as an infant and is then raised by a pack of wolves, a black panther and a bear, it is a harrowing tale of survival after the evil Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger has deemed that Mowgli, the human boy must be destroyed. Mowgli is left on an adventure to make his way to the humans while Khan stalks his pray and the other members of Mowgli’s animal family try and help and defend him. It is a story that tells of the evils of man and the red flower aka fire that is the power of the humans that can destroy all and it is also a story of incredible friendships, loyalty, love, that race or breed do not matter and most of all, to always have fun, similar to Lion King’s “hakuna matata.” It is a children’s adventure that can and will be loved by all families.
First of all, THE JUNGLE BOOK is the best CGI animation on the big screen since AVATAR, it is flawless and those animals are so life-like and that jungle all so real, blows your mind when you realise this movie was mostly filmed on a sound stage in Los Angeles. The CGI is so impressive you can be immersed into it and believe it is real, and not only that you really do feel for these animals, seeing Mowgli say goodbye to his den mother really does have you welling up.
The cast is beyond impressive, Shere Khan (Idris Elba) is chilling and not to be trifled with, he is possibly the greatest onscreen villain of 2016 that makes Eisenberg’s Luthor come off like a drunk Care Bear. Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera is the hero of the film, you love him and you respect him, Bill Murray’s Balloo steals the movie and you can’t help but find this perfection in casting, Murray was born to voice Balloo. Christopher Walken was superb as King Louie but one thing that has always irked me about THE JUNGLE BOOK stories, all of them, is why the monkeys are evil, I am assuming Kipling had a bad experience with them in his youth but with general consensus I could never see monkeys being evil. Lupita Nyong’o was great as Mowgli’s den mother, Raksha but I wanted more of Raksha and her cubs, I wanted the cubs on the journey with Mowgli but I know this is not the story.
Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa was perfectly scary but I wanted more of her also, it needs to be noted Kaa was the best example I have heard of the Atmos sound system in the cinema we viewed the movie in. She is all mysterious and weaving her magic on Mowgli and up and down and in the trees and Johansson’s mesmerising voice moving all around you was a audible piece of brilliance putting Atmos to perfect use.
I guess there is one character I need to mention, that of Mowgli, played by little tacker, Neel Sethi, he was selected from an international casting search of thousands of kids from around the globe and I applaud Favreau’s selection, if Mowgli couldn’t pull this off in front of green screens this movie would have been trash, but Sethi nailed it, he had the agility, the cheekiness and the heart to lead this movie, he truly acted his little heart out and made the movie all the better for it.
It is about now I need to point out my observation of THE JUNGLE BOOK, it is the Star Wars story set in the jungle. Shere Khan is Darth Vader, Bagheera is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Man is The Dark Side, Mowgli is either Luke or The Force, Kaa is Boba Fett, Balloo is Han Solo and King Louie is Jabba the Hut. Mr Lucas has something to answer for here. I found THE JUNGLE BOOK following the STAR WARS trajectory at the same time I realised the entire movie is also a metaphor for growing up, it is also the PETER PAN story, in the jungle aka Neverland Mowgli can always stay young and adventurous but going to man is darker, fiercer and scary and will mean leaving the jungle forever due to the pending threat of Shere Khan aka growing up. This saddened me but at the same time allowed me to have so much more respect and love for the story.
One thing I need to point out, this movie is amazing with lots of fun and funny parts and superb adventure but it is bloody dark with some harrowing and scary scenes, remember this is a movie where everything not family is pretty much trying to kill an eight year old boy. Shere Khan is terrifying and King Louie will have little kids crying and wanting to leave the cinema and the finale, the grand scene is edge of your seat stuff that may see more little kids crying and wanting to flee. This is not a bad thing, the movie will stay with them and the bright scenes more than make up for it but be warned!
I will see this movie again in the cinema and I will own it on Blu Ray. It is not the bright and happy animation from 1967 and lacks some of that immense happiness and joy, some might say the two songs Favreau includes from the animation actually seem a little out of place but they had me tapping along, this is not a Disney musical, it is a full on action CGI movie – take them as two separate movies and enjoy the hell out of them both.
Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.