By McKenna Cooley
Rudyard Kipling’s original set of stories “The Jungle Book” has made the jump to the big screen multiple times since its original release in 1894. One of the most well known versions was Walt Disney’s 1967 animated adaptation and then later “The Jungle Book 2.” Disney Co. has been on a streak of making live-action movies over the past few years with “Cinderella,” “Maleficent,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and the great new “Jungle Book” film following the same trend.
The director and writers took a different perspective for this installment. Although the basic plot of getting Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi, to the man village is present, they changed the specific reason why Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle, which actually made the story make more sense and improved the story line. He wants to remain with the wolf pack who raised him, taught him the ways of the jungle, and loved him like their own against the will of Bagheera, performed by Ben Kingsley.
The wolf pack plays a far more important role in this version compared to the animated version, where they were mentioned in passing. Throughout the story they talk about the pack, what it means to Mowgli, and how Shere Khan, portrayed by Idris Elba, uses the pack to lure Mowgli to him. Akela, played by Giancarlo Esposito, and Raksha, played by Lupita Nyong’o, were both very protective of Mowgli and showed real love for the man cub.
The lion Shere Khan also changed in this version. They introduce his backstory, where he explains why he hates man and why he needs to kill Mowgli himself. He and Mowgli have multiple chase scenes along with really great dialogue that absolutely helped the story along.
Another large character change was King Louie, portrayed by Christopher Walken. In the animated version, Louie seemed friendly to Mowgli, not at all threatening; however, in this version, he is a very large orangutan that threatens Mowgli, so he will teach him to make “the red flower” or fire. There was also a huge chase scene with Mowgli, which was the best one in the entire movie.
Although so much in the new version has changed, the original movie wasn’t completely left behind because the original songs “The Bare Necessities” by Baloo, played by Bill Murray, and “I Wan’Na Be Like You” by King Louie were kept in the film. Although they didn’t last very long, fans were still happy and singing along in the theatre.
The best visual part of the movie was during Kaa’s, performed by Scarlett Johansson, snake charming scene. The animation and transitions to the different parts of the flashback were visually stunning and flowed together nicely.
The makeup artists should be given a great deal of credit for this film. They perfectly demonstrated their talents throughout the movie with Sethi’s makeup.
The animation and realism of the animals also added to the story’s authenticity, which made it enjoyable for the audience. Not only was the dialogue of the characters synchronized with the mouths of the animals, but the animals were immensely realistic.
The shining star of the film was most definitely Sethi. He had the most work in the entire film because he was in almost every scene. Some of the scenes were very physical and required him to do a lot more than his animated co-stars, and he displayed a wide range of emotions through his facial expressions.
Disney definitely had a challenge ahead of them to make yet another box office hit with their new live-action version; however, they have once again made a hit. It is definitely a must-see, but just be prepared for a few surprises. This movie is ⅘ stars because it really was a great, but parents should be careful in bringing very young children due to the unexpected shocks that pop up throughout the movie.