The Jungle Book Movie Review

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Most of us have grown up reading or hearing the story The Jungle Book that was written by Rudyard Kipling back in 1894. The story of a human child raised by the beasts of the forest, who eventually grows up to fight his biggest enemy, has over the years despite the advancement of time and technology kept its charm. Now decades later, director Jon Favreau attempts at capturing the essence of the book on celluloid with THE JUNGLE BOOK. Many of us grew up watching The Jungle Book animated show on TV and later pestering the school librarian for a copy of the book. In fact the tunes of ‘Jungle Jungle Pata Chala Hai’ and ‘Bear Necessities’ still sound catchy and will always be remembered. However, the question of the hour is, will Jon Favreau’s celluloid adaptation of the book live up to the expectations and enable viewers to relive the joys and anxiety, or will it be yet another subdued adaptation of a memorable story…

THE JUNGLE BOOK is the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a human boy raised by the wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) ever since he was a baby and brought to them by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the black panther. When the fearsome scarred Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens his life since man isn’t allowed in the jungle, Mowgli leaves his jungle home. Guided by Bagheera and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), he sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the man-hunting Shere Khan. Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who do not exactly have his best interests at heart including Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) the python and the smooth-talking Bornean orangutan-resembling Gigantopithecus King Louie (Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower. Will Mowgli succumb to King Louie’s wishes and assist him in attaining the red flower, will he defeat Shere Khan, or will he forsake the jungle for the safety of the human village is what the rest of the film is all about.

The film starts off with Mowgli running through the forests, only to be overtaken by a pack of wolves, though they aren’t after him, they sure are fleeing from a greater threat. Unfortunately the little lad trips and lags behind the pack, eventually falling victim to Bagheera, who is training the pack to run together as one unit. From here the film tells the story of life in the jungle and what it means to be a part of the wolf pack, however, the story twists with a severe drought hitting the jungle due to which drinking water becomes a luxury. Following this the animals in the jungle kingdom call a water truce, where in predator and prey alike can gather together at the common watering hole sans the fear of falling victim to preying jaws. Shere Khan the fearsome Bengal tiger too respects this truce, but he is put on the war path after getting a whiff of the man cub Mowgli. Shere Khan, though not breaking the truce issues an ultimatum that when the rains return and the rivers swell up again, he will come for the boy and anyone standing in his way will be killed. Bagheera, the black panther, who feels responsible for Mowgli, considering the fact that it was him who brought the lad to the wolves takes it upon himself to return Mowgli to the man village setting off on a journey that not just traverses the forests but also tells the story of a boy becoming a man.

One would expect a sweet fun filled adventure, especially with Disney remaking everyone’s favourite childhood story. But THE JUNGLE BOOK is far from it. In fact the film that combines live action with impeccable CGI animation is quite literally a visual masterpiece. Faverau does a brilliant job of interweaving the gags that we remember from the TV show and the darkness that hides within the lines of the book. This coupled with spot on voiceovers and life like animation takes the audience on a roller coaster ride while following the adventures of Mowgli. Neel Sethi, the 12 year old who was chosen for the part of Mowgli after auditioning over 2000 kids, fits the role perfectly. Not once does he underplay or over emote in any sequence, given the fact that the lad most probably shot major parts of the film against a green screen, a feat that even the most experienced actors might find hard to pull off.

While Faverau has done a marvellous job detailing Mowgli, he does similarly well in giving Shere Khan an ominous dark aura that induces fear in the hearts of the viewer. The film also depends heavily on the characters of Bagheera and Baloo who hold the film together along with Mowgli. However, the other characters like Raksha, Kaa, Akela and King Louie seem underdeveloped with little graph to their characters. Though detailing each character would have been a time consuming process, in essence lengthening the film, the viewer is left with the feeling that there should have been more of these legendary characters shown in the film. Simultaneously, despite its positives, the film does have a few draw backs, with the story and screenplay seeming to drift in the second half. In fact while the first half keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, building up the anticipation for a thrilling climax, the second half seems to lag slowing down considerably. Due to this, the climactic battle between Mowgli and Shere Khan, though very well executed visually, does seems to appear somewhat subdued.

Most importantly though, a special mention goes to the technical team of the film, from the cinematographer Bill Pope, to the entire VFX team and editor Mark Livolsi. Director Jon Favreau with his technical team has managed to create a visual spectacular world of the jungle that sucks you into it right away. Also, the incredible work done in creating the CG animals almost makes it hard to believe that they aren’t real living creatures. The brilliant sound design and 3D adds further to the overall experience that has to be seen to be believed.

Dubbed in Hindi for release in India, the film is sure to captivate audience of all age groups. While Neel Sethi as Mowgli is incredible, voiceovers by Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri, Irrfan, Nana Patekar, Shefali Shah and Bugs Bhargava for the Hindi version add tremendous credibility to the film.

Overall, THE JUNGLE BOOK is a shining example of phenomenal filmmaking, transporting the viewer to a different world. Complete with a riveting plot combined with VFX and 3D that makes you jump, THE JUNGLE BOOK is definitely a must watch.

The Rating

Rating:3.5 out of 5

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