Thursday, April 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Lately Disney has been actively remaking their classic animated features into live action films for the modern audience. After Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent and Cinderella, it's now Jungle Book's turn to entertain the audience. I must admit I didn't actually watch the original animated film growing up. I've seen footage, clips of 'Bare Necessities', briefly know about the premise but that was the extend of my knowledge on the animated film. So I went with minimal knowledge and zero expectation for the film. I came out of the theaters well satisfied but not overly excited for the film. Read on for my full review.

The Jungle Book tells the story of a boy named Mowgli who was found by a panther, Bagheera, and raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves. The antagonist of the film, tiger Shere Khan's threat to the wolves made his keepers decide that Mowgli needs to return to the "Man-Village" before he grows to become an adult that will turn on the animals. So the whole film chronicles the journey Mowgli and Bagheera took to return him to live again among humans.

Based on what I read on Wikipedia, the story in this live action take is a bit more darker and had minor difference from the 1967 animation. Story-wise though it was still compelling and that little change in the plot I think made more sense to set up the 3rd act. I was initially unsatisfied that they didn't start with the background of how Mowgli was found but I think putting it in the middle of the story gave it a more unique storytelling than the usual linear path.

Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi was a joy on film. He really looked the part of a kid blending into the animal kingdom but also portrays a certain kind of maturity at his supposed age. The voices behind the animals gave very convincing performances, especially Idris Elba as Shere Khan. His voice was perfect to play a terrifying and formidable foe to not only Mowgli but also the animal kingdom. Surprisingly, Scarlet Johansson's role in the film as Kaa is very minimal.

The most amazing part of the film would have to be the use of CGI to make out the rest of the characters and environment. Every inch of each animal characters in the film was created in fine details and looked very natural. Thoroughly in awe that at times I was more focused on examining for any flaws in the details of the animals just to convince myself that this is indeed only animation. The supposed Indian jungle environment created, although sometimes I felt it was more Africa than India, was lush and beautiful. It didn't feel like it was set in a studio.

Overall I think the production was excellent on this one. The film is more to showcase how advance the animation landscape has become. I'm not entirely overexcited about the film as I felt the storyline is a simple one. One that even kids can enjoy. So it's not a must see on my account.