Movie Review: ‘The Jungle Book’

The newest live-action Disney movie, “The Jungle Book,” hit theatres April 15. It tells the same story as the classic film about a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi). The star-studded cast includes Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Scarlett Johanson (Kaa) and Christopher Walken (King Louie).

Mowgli has only known the jungle, but during the water-truce, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba), a tiger, threatens the wolves raising him. Shere Kahn threatens the wolves because he wants to kill Mowgli, who belonged to the human kind who burned his face. Mowgli leaves his wolfpack, because he wants to save his “family” from any danger for keeping him there. Before Mowgli leaves, his wolf mother, Roksha (Lupita N’yongo), reminds him that he will always be her son.

The storyline for this live-action version is much darker than the original animated version. The animals are much larger than Mowgli, making him seem more vulnerable and childlike. King Louie, an orangutan, is easily the size of a house compared to Mowgli. The forest setting also reflects the darker tone of the movie. It does not have much sunlight, which allows the menacing characters to hide in the shadows and makes them seem evil.

Mowgli goes off with Bagheera, a black panther, to find the main village and seek refuge from Shere Kahn. Along the way, Mowgli meets Baloo. This Baloo is not the same bear from the cartoon version. Baloo is still funny, but he is more manipulative and smarter than the original. Baloo lies to Mowgli, even putting him in danger, to get what he wants. The character of Baloo is what sets the tone for the movie, one that is of a darker and less cheerful tale. Baloo was the comic relief in the cartoon, but here he is cunning and lazy.  

Even the songs reflect the tone of the movie. Though the directors chose to keep most of the original Disney songs, these songs are not cheerful. The songs are in a minor key, which creates this threatening and eerie vibe.

“The Jungle Book” is much more action-packed than the original movie. The computer animated animals are well done. They move with the quick prowess the audience would expect in actual animals. The camera shots are quick and shifty, mimicking the movements of the more menacing animals, specifically King Louie and Shere Kahn. When Mowgli comes back to face Shere Kahn, the entrapment scene has a longer and more violent ending. Mowgli is chased through the jungle and fire, while the soundtrack builds, giving the audience a sense of urgency. 

As the only human actor, Neel Sethi fulfilled the challenging role despite this being his first film. The audience watches him transform from a young, naive boy to a determined, self-sacrificing man. Idris Elba, who plays Shere Kahn, had a very guttural voice that sounded like you would think a tiger would. Ben Kinglsey’s voice is the deep sound you would expect from a wise panther, as well.

The live-action rendering of “The Jungle Book” is not the cheerful tale from childhood, but it tells the mature and very violent tale of man versus beast. However, the movie still has comedy, drama and thrills.

“The Jungle Book” will be playing in theaters until the end of May.

Allison Sapp is a senior English major and an arts and entertainment reporter for Cedars. She is obsessed with dark chocolate, movies, books and Tim Horton’s coffee.

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