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Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

April 28, 2016

CALEB DANIEL

Managing Editor| csd020@latech.edu

 

Walt Disney Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

 

The current film industry has an obsession with recycling. As a moviegoer, in the face of innumerable remakes, spinoffs and sequels, it can be easy to get burnt out on the familiar.

 

 

Disney’s retelling of its classic tale “The Jungle Book” blends fresh storytelling innovation with just the right amount of nostalgia to create a movie experience that reminds us why we get excited about remakes in the first place.

 

 

While implementing some of the best elements  of the 1967 animated film, director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks also hearken back to the original book and flesh out new ideas in equal portion.

 

 

The result is a story with more gravity and intensity than before, but one that nonetheless warms the heart in a way that is unmistakably Disney. “The Jungle Book” tells the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), the man-cub raised by wolves, and Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the vengeful tiger bent on ending the young boy’s life. Set in the jungles of India, the film follows Mowgli’s journey of self-discovery as he fights to survive. The balance between inspiration from the book and the classic film begins with Mowgli himself. This iteration is every bit the cheeky and irresponsible child from the animated musical, but also the confident and brave young man of the Rudyard Kipling novel.

 

 

Sethi, who trained in parkour to prepare for the role, pulled off both sides of the hero remarkably well, especially considering he was the only human cast member on set. One aspect neither the original film nor the book can rival is the vibrant visual appeal of Favreau’s version of the Indian jungle. CGI-constructed visual effects portray the many animal characters in a way that seems almost real, and yet leaves the viewer with that sense of wonder that only Disney magic can provide.  The concept of the “law of the jungle,” upon which the entire novel hinges, is given its proper importance and development, becoming a cornerstone of the film’s emotional center.

 

 

Given this less childlike view of how the jungle works, this was bound to be a more serious tale.

 

 

The wrath of Shere Khan, assisted by Elba’s chilling voice acting, produces several suspenseful and intense moments.

 

 

The story’s other important characters are depicted in a near-perfect blend of old and new influences.

 

 

Bill Murray’s Baloo the bear is no Phil Harris, but he exudes a similar sort of world-wise humor breaking up the film’s quick-paced, heart-pounding action. The movie’s two side-villains turned out to be some of the most refreshing and innovative changes.

 

 

Scarlett Johansson lends a seductively hypnotic voice to the previously male python Kaa, and Mowgli can hardly be blamed for falling under her spell. Formerly a silly and fairly harmless orangutan, Louie (Christopher Walken) is now a menacing “gigantopithecus” with the mannerisms of an Italian mobster and a girth to rival King Kong. Walken’s take on Louie rivals even Shere Khan as a compelling antagonist.

 

 

The movie’s wrap-up is fairly predictable, but naturally happens with remakes. Disney’s new take contains all the bare necessities (including that song) from the original movie and novel, still taking enough direction to fascinate old and young alike.

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