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Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)


When people think of The Jungle Book, they conjure up images of dancing bears, kooky comedy and jovial songs centring around, essentially a young "Tarzan". While the beloved 1967 Disney fairytale probably has a special place in most people's hearts, few would have guessed that it would be reimagined as a much darker "live–action" adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's books.

In what seems like a blend of the brothers Grimm and Kipling, Iron Man director Jon Favreau has reinvented the story. Using amazing CGI technology to rival and surpass Life of Pi, he's been able to populate the jungle with digital characters that have real weight and expression without losing the balance of reality.

Apart from Neel Sethi, who plays Mowglie "the man cub", every other character is portrayed by a voice artist. The ensemble includes some big Hollywood names such as: Sir Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken and Lupita Nyong'o, some of whom you will recognise along the way.

This isn't the epic yet delightful yarn that many families would be expecting. Just like Life of Pi, it serves as more of an allegory, allowing the animals to possess certain human characteristics but ultimately embody the very nature of the creatures themselves. As such, it's more violent and thrilling with Sheer Khan looming over the jungle community much like Scar did in The Lion King.

The Jungle Book Movie Review

"For the last time... this ISN'T a Bravestarr origins story."

The whole experience is spellbinding, as you enter another world, where lifelike creatures talk and scheme on what's best for Mowglie. Seethi is naive as both a young actor and character, allowing his innocence to carry the impressionable youngster. He certainly looks similar enough to the Disney version and there's never much doubt when he's interacting the animals, allowing him and us to sink deep into the magical jungle world.

It's a fantasy adventure that also recalls Avatar as amazing 3D visuals create a very real environment and sense of wonder. While it takes a while to get used to non-cartoon animals talking, the CGI is so seamless that you never really question what you're seeing. Having a real Mowglie gives the suspended reality an honesty, making you cringe when Sheer Khan attacks and enough of an urgency that your concern for the well-being of the child is real. It's quite revolutionary when you consider no animals were used in the making of this film.

Apart from being an extraordinary achievement in film-making, Favreau has necessitated this "remake" by virtue of its more impactful adaptation. The original Disney classic gets tribute as various scenes echo in this version, however it's much more immediate and dangerous. It holds the same enjoyment and entertainment factor, despite playing down the musical and comedy aspects, yet managing to get much more from its audience in terms of suspense and sheer wonder. It may not have the emotional resonance you'd expect from such a coming-of-age fable, but as a spectacle it's a marvel and will stay with you for days.

The bottom line: Spectacular