The Jungle Book is perhaps Kipling’s best known work. And it has been adapted many times over the years. I remember the ’67 animated version, mainly because the characters looked exactly as they did in one of my Disney collections. Of course, the Disney adaptation is significantly different from Kipling’s but the outline of the story remains the same. I had huge expectations of this film, given how it is part-live action and part-CG. And I must say, I am thrilled with the final version. The decision to make Kaa a female must have been filled with risk, but it still paid off, as did King Louie’s shift from being an orangutan to a gigantopithecus. Also, a back story for both Mowgli and Shere Khan served the film rather well.
DIRECTION: Jon Favreau (Director of the first two Iron Man films; Happy Hogan in the Iron Man series; Pete Becker from Friends) has done a fabulous job. Having had to shoot the film on sound stages in Los Angeles, one can only imagine what an incredible task it must have been to present a fantastic film. The direction is paced perfectly and not once does Favreau rely on the extraordinariness of the visual effects to take away from his characters and story. Kudos, Mr Favreau!
SCREENPLAY: Justin Marks’ screenplay is action-packed. It moves away from the ’67 film a bit, and does so very well. A lot more of Kipling’s book is brought into the film than before and that too rather seamlessly. The screenplay doesn’t lag at all, though I wish there had been a little more of Bare Necessities in it.
VISUAL EFFECTS: MPC and Weta Digital, take ten bows. What a fantabulous job you’ve done. The visual effects are surreal. Everything from the animals to the river to the forest looks incredibly realistic. Each frame is rendered beautifully by the VFX team. To create such magnificent effects is an achievement in itself and to do it without having a lot of on-the-monitor-while-filming reference is an even bigger achievement. Never do the effects seem over the top. They set the film up in their various tones amazingly.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: A thump on the back for Bill Pope. A great job he has done. Bringing tons of experience of having shot films with larger-than-life VFX, Pope deserves a huge round of applause. His cameras move very well, whether it’s a wide-angle shot or a hand-held one. The action sequences are particularly well-captured.
PERFORMANCES: Lupita Nyong’o brings an extremely emotional touch to the film as Raksha. Her performance as the motherly figure of the film was really good. Scarlett Johansson makes Kaa a most seductive kind of creature, whose hypnotism is felt in the film. She gets it spot-on. Giancarlo Esposito as Akela was also very good. His firm voice suited the character very well. Christopher Walken plays King Louie rather well. The unpredictable king of the Bandar Log is in top form as he puts his demands in front of Mowgli before losing it. Walken plays him like a fun Mafia-like guy. Idris Elba as Shere Khan!! Wow! What a performance. Elba brings out the menacingly fercious character exceedingly well. His performance makes one’s hair stand on end. Forget casting him as the next 007, he should be the villain in the next Bond film. Bill Murray and the CG Baloo look quite alike. Murray brings the fun to the table. He makes the film hilarious with his antics. What with his honey and hibernation. Sir Ben Kingsley’s baritone matches Bagheera to the ‘T’. His voice makes you trust Bagheera, who happens to belong to Oodeypore, with almost anything. He plays Bagheera in a way such that anyone would want to be his friend, much like Murray’s Baloo. Neel Sethi is outstanding in his acting debut as Mowgli. The boy is energetic and lively and it shows in the way he portrays the character. Also, keep in mind that Neel performed mostly against a blue/green screen, with only artists in blue/green suits for company. Inspite of that, he delivers an almost stellar performance. A mention for the performing artists is a must here. These people played the animals in the film and did their job exceedingly well, which shows in Neel’s performance.
The Jungle Book: 10/10