So The Jungle Book is actually pretty darn good. Much better than Disney live-action adaptations tend to be. I wasn’t really expecting this to be good at all. I didn’t think the visuals looked good in the trailers, I wasn’t sure exactly why Disney was choosing to re-adapt The Jungle Book of all their movies, and I just didn’t really see why it was necessary. Let’s face it, the version of The Jungle Book that most people think of, the 1967 original, hasn’t aged well. Like at all. It’s actually just kinda meanders along until the end. It’s weird.
Anyway, while I can definitely tell that this version is more of an adaptation of the ’67 version and not so much Rudyard Kipling’s original book, it does improve on basically everything. While sometimes the movie does sometimes take an abrupt turn to directly recreate something from the ’67 version, it’s actually still paced remarkably well. Everything has a drive to it and everything does feel like it actually serves a function to the larger overall plot.
It’s probably one of the best examples of updating a story for a modern audience while still telling the same story; and thankfully it doesn’t screw everything up by adding in some tired “chosen one” story arc like something like Alice in Wonderland did. On top of that the visuals themselves actually end up looking stunning. I’m not sure how convincing this will look in 5 or 10 years, but as of now I can safely say I actually couldn’t believe that non of this movie was shot on location. The Jungle feels like a wholly realized movie environment that can feel expansive, small, alien, but yet familiar all at the same time. It’s all very well filmed too. There are never moments where it feels like John Favreau’s being lazy. Even when he’s filming a conversation he keeps the camera moving so we see and feel more of The Jungle’s presence.
The cast is mostly great. I’m very impressed with Neel Sethi, this kid’s never acted in a big budget movie like this before in his life and he’s able to give a mostly convincing performance next too an almost entirely CGI cast. It’s a big challenge and he handles it pretty well. I enjoyed Ben Kingsley as Bagheera too, but it’s Idris Elba who’s the most interesting to watch as Shere Khan. Shere Khan might just be one of the most terrifying children’s villains put to screen in the past few years. It’s not even so much through Elba’s voice performance so much as the screenplay just knows how to make do actions that are just freaking scary to watch. I’m not completely sure about the rest of the cast though. Is Bill Murry might be doing really good as Baloo, but the nature of the character Baloo is so laid back and relaxed I honestly couldn’t tell you if he’s phoning it in or not. Scarlett Johansson is doing a pretty creepy Kaa but her voice is just too distracting for me to forget that Kaa’s being voiced by Scarlett Johansson. It’s Cristopher Walken though who just plain confuses me. I mean…. Okay spoilers, they out of nowhere have him break into ‘I Wan’na Be Like You’ and I seriously can’t tell if he’s okay or terrible. Here, I leave the link to the song from the movie and you can decide.
Anyway, the sequence with King Louise itself is pretty entertaining, even if it is one of those sequences that seems to just be there because remake. Overall, Jungle Book is pretty good. It surpassed my expectations, I had fun with it, kids will probably like it, and I’m hoping we can keep expecting good things from Disney for the rest of the year.