Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

While the only human cast in the midst of an entirely computer-animated production, is a boy with red underpants, the real star of Disney’s new live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, is the wilderness itself. This unique edition of the 1967 animated classic sways between Disney’s hopefulness and Kipling’s grim intentions, producing an immaculate piece of contemporary art directed by Jon Favreau. While he has done nothing outrageously different than the other CGI-based films presented recently, the way in which he structures the elements together is not only impressive, but extraordinary.

The film is competent in its effects, and so incredibly detailed with its characterisations that it conveys clear messages between the relationship of humankind and nature. Within this relationship, it is easy to notice a consistent pattern of contrasts with regards to thematic catalysts that are detrimental to the world of The Jungle Book. Man versus animal, good versus evil, and the “red flower” versus the lushness of the green jungle. It’s so cleverly conveyed through the crafting of this entire dreamscape, forged from the very first frame as you’re introduced to a young child running with a pack of wolves, together enveloped by this world of both security and potential danger.

This film is a feast for the mind and eyes, as the digital creations are so convincing that the talking animals are not perceived as artificial additions, but captivating characters embedded within the tale. With their witty script, glinting eyes, and flexing muscles, you’re left forgetting they were ever digital creations. The tactile technology is used in conjunction with the stellar voice actors to enhance the animals’ characterisations in this CGI menagerie. Bill Murray and Idris Elba’s voices are striking and standout greatly for their characters, as is Scarlett Johansson as the menacing serpent Kaa, and Christopher Walken as the giant orangutan, King Louie.

In addition, what is even more impressive than the voices and effects is little Neel Sethi, as the perfect Mowgli. He accepts the reality of the digital world that surrounds him, and produces emotions and actions in such a natural and realistic manner, so much so that his acting is a testament to both actor and director. He works through the soundstages and green screens with such encouragement that he sells it to us viewers with his very physical performance.

The film offers up a magnificent story that upholds the ethical values and storytelling ideals of classical Hollywood, paired with the latest in film-technology. This familiar story of a young boy raised in the jungle by its very own creatures, is destined to re-join Man, and is told through a funny, heart-warming and scary adventure sprinkled with fabled elements. A film which will hold a great deal of importance to adults and children alike as it not only adapts the original film, but forges a new adventure.

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