Following on from Maleficent and Cinderella, The Jungle Book is Disney’s latest live-action remake of a classic animated film and it’s easily the best of the three.
The story doesn’t stray massively from the tale that you’re probably familiar with but, as promised, it is a lot more intense. We watch the young man-cub, Mowgli, navigate his way through the jungle as he tries to escape the Bengal tiger, Shere Khan, who is intent on killing him.
From the trailer and just looking at Disney’s record it comes as no surprise that the visual effects of this film are amazing but even that doesn’t prepare for the reality of seeing it on a big screen. It seems impossible that the jungle environment isn’t actually real and that the film was actually made in Downtown Los Angeles. This was Favreau’s first venture into this level of CGI technology (even more advanced than that used in Avatar) and he has done a fantastic job of creating a world that appears to be simultaneously real but also too much for reality – the effect is intoxicating.
Neel Sethi is the only actor in the film and for a total newcomer he does a fair job. There are a few moments where his interactions with the digitally-mastered animals are a bit stilted and don’t quite match up but on the whole he works well with what can’t have been an easy situation and you soon find yourself absorbed in the action.
Whilst Sethi came into the film as an unknown, the voice cast of the film was filled with star-studded names and I can’t fault a single one of their performances. Scarlett Johansson’s snake, Kaa, was particularly brilliant – seductive and sinister – and Christopher Walken’s King Louie was equally fearsome but in an entirely different way.
The story has a fantastic pace to it and even in the slower moments I never found myself getting bored. The songs, I Wanna Be Like You and The Bare Necessities were incorporated in a less-than-seamless manner but I was just so excited to hear them that it was a non-issue.
Watching this film felt like the first time that I watched the animated version as a child: I was excited and terrified and happy.