Review: The Jungle Book – Visually astounding but lacks the epic saga of the jungle

the Jungle Book cover
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A single word describes the work of Rudyard Kipling and that’s legend! The author’s work on the motivational book, The Jungle Book has gone out to live for years and has been adapted tonnes of time by various people and so far Disney’s animated version has ruled the heart of audiences. To recreate the 1967’s magic once again, Disney decided to come up with a live action CGI movie – The Jungle Book starring Neel Sethi. But boy oh boy did they terribly fail!

For those of you who have seen the animated version, you might be well aware of the story. But what is new is the fact the movie has been entirely created by CGI. The only characters in the movie that were shot in person were Mowgli and his father. The moviegoers are in for a visual escapade as the director, Jon Favreau has roped in the best for bringing ‘The Jungle Book magic’ on the big screen. For the visual effects, MPC and WETA Digital were roped in and they have extensively worked on generating right from the lush, beautiful jungle to wild animals and birds. Animatrik also played a great role in bringing this virtual production to life by deploying 40 plus motion capture cameras to track the core cinema camera.

The movie followed the story of the young man cub, Mowgli who’s been raised by the Indian wolves Raksha and Akela ever since he was a baby and brought to them by Bagheera the black panther. Everything is peaceful until one day, the fearsome scarred Bengal tiger Shere Khan threatens Mowgli’s life since man isn’t allowed in the jungle and from there on Mowgli’s quest of self discovery begins. Along the way Mowgli encounters the friendly bear Baloo and few other jungle creatures who don’t exactly have best interests at heart including the python Kaa and the Bornean orangutan King Louie who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly “red flower”.

THE JUNGLE BOOKThough the film had all the right ingredients in place and some amazing visuals that can be compared to the likes of Avatar, Favreau failed to win my heart. Though I don’t remember much of the animated version, however I have danced to the tunes of its hindi song ‘Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata Chala hai’ and to experience that on the big screen was what I was waiting for. But, just like the trailer, the visually captivating movie failed to entice me.

Since the beginning, there’s a lack in the emotional connect with the audience. The parting of Mowgli from Raksha, Bagheera’s concern, Baloo’s amusement of seeing Mowgli easily get the honey… all seemed impassive. The only ones whose emotions struck a chord were Grey, the young wolf (Brighton Rose) and to some extent Raksha. Keeping in mind that the movie is almost based on CGI, voice actors play an important role and their tone could either make or break their character. And, it seemed like the right vocals and emotions to the characters was missing overall.

The Jungle Book KaaThe one character that though had just a small but crucial role – Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) managed to slither in the minds of the audience with her hypnotic enchanting voice. Whereas the young kid, Neel who played the role of Mowgli did manage to pull off his character.

Favreau tried to implement the musical element that was seen in the animated version but failed to shine through. I Wan’na Be like You sung by King Louie was a song that the movie could do without. It came out of nowhere and kind of seemed awkwardly incorporated whereas The Bare Necessities originally written by Terry Gilkyson and sung by Murray and Sethi was spun in the film seamlessly. At the beginning and the end of the movie, Indian music beats can be heard in the background which built up the backdrop of the location of ‘The Jungle.’

The Jungle Book Grey Raksha

In terms of the cinematography, though there were few rushes observed, the movie has been exquisitely shot. Scenes like the the kingdom of King Louie, the dark jungle, the gathering of all the animals during the peace treaty at the water table have been well executed. There were some shots like the entrance of the elephants from the jungle amidst the fog, the man (human) village and the up close Shere Khan and Mowgli’s jump during the fight which seemed a bit animated and could have been worked upon a bit more. Apart from those few scenes, MPC and WETA Digital have managed to deliver the best for this movie. The humongous King Louie is one of the best creation as a lot of R&D might have gone into the movement of not just his fur but also the way his cheek flaps and the thick neck juggles as his body shifts.

Though the film had many underlying messages like how the urge for power destroys oneself, one should be adaptive to situations, to be who they are; it lacked the depth required. Overall though The Jungle Book had some mind boggling visuals, it failed to tell the legendary tale and leave a mark on the audience.

All and all, though the movie has a predictable plot, one should witness the visual escapade on the big screens but not necessarily on an IMAX. As far as the box office is concerned, I am quite sure it will rule the market due to the book’s history but whether it will break the box office records is the question of the hour. We will have to wait and watch and as Raksha says, “If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

THE JUNGLE BOOK (Pictured) MOWGLI and BALOO. ©2016 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Jungle Book – Cast and Crew:

Neel Sethi – Mowgli
Ritesh Rajan – Mowgli’s father
Voice cast:
Bill Murray – Baloo
Ben Kingsley – Bagheera
Idris Elba – Shere Khan
Lupita Nyong’o – Raksha
Scarlett Johansson – Kaa
Giancarlo Esposito – Akela
Christopher Walken – King Louie
Garry Shandling – Ikki
Brighton Rose – Grey Brother
Jon Favreau – Pygmy Hog
Sam Raimi – Giant Squirrel
Russell Peters – Rocky the Rhino
Madeleine Favreau – Raquel the Rhino
Director: Jon Favreau
Producer: Jon Favreau and Brigham Taylor
Writer: Justin Marks
Music: John Debney
Visual effects supervisor: Charley Henley

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