The story in the new Jungle Book movie is a familiar one and it has been loosely adapted from Kipling eponymous book of stories. They tell us about Mowgli, the man-cub which is raised by the wolves in the jungle of India.
They are threatened with death by the tiger Shere Khan but accompanied by his paternal panther, Bagheera; he heads towards a village where he might be safe. Meanwhile, along the way, he comes across a lot of creatures like Kaa the python, King Louie of the apes, and, of course, Baloo the bear.
The narrative has been enriched in every step by the director Jon Favreau and Justin Marks, the screenwriter. They have deepened the themes and ratcheted the emotion and tension to major levels. Mowgli’s journey now features a highly vivid transition from cubhood towards anatomy. Moreover, his human tricks and tool-making cast is in much clearer contrast to the wildness of the jungle.
We wonder whether there is truly a place for him or will he stand apart from the others. Mowgli is offered by a different path to follow whenever he comes across each of the animal principals. Bagheera has plans for civic safety while Baloo has theories about Arcadian escapism.
There is a beguiling and short-lived intimacy offered by Scarlett Johansson. Purring slowly, she says how Mowgli can live with her if he wants while her coils continue to tighten around him. With the more than awesome casting of Christopher Walken as King Louie, there is another dimension presented to his offer of protection.
However, this time, Mowgli’s ultimate decision is far more satisfying and at the same time, he is better at making himself compatible with the temper of the times. It features a belated correction of cinematic and moral flaw which is almost half a century old. Ben Kingsley was certainly the best pick when it came to voicing the character of Bagheera.
Right now, it is almost hard to imagine the filmmakers considering anyone else. A gentle and wistful interpretation of the bear is offered by Bill Murray although choosing him was certainly a major gamble.
The trickiest casting of all was Shere Khan, keeping in mind the excellent vocal performance applied by George Sanders in the original film.
However, choosing Idris Elba was a great decision. He portrays the character beautifully, a tiger less urbane and still quite dangerous. Moreover, he is fearsome in his casual physicality. Mowgli’s role-mother, Raksha, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’s was remarkably moving as well.
The CGI encompasses all the characters and at the same time, the entire cinematic environment is beautifully outlined. It results in a modest revelation which extends the boundaries of the possible. Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi is a technological splendor. He is good if not completely unforgettable.
He offers a performance which is less ‘acting’ than embodiment but Mowgli is impeccably embodied by Sethi, starting from the red-swaddle diaper to the floppy hairstyle. The visuals that were conjured by Bill Pope the cinematographer and Favreau are definitely first-rate.
All the intense action sequences like the stampede of water buffalo, more than one life-or-death encounter with Shere Khan—to the times of silent beauty where a frog wipes a raindrop off its head; a majestic simian cityscape; a shed snakeskin which is big enough to envelop a school bus! Even the credit sequence is rather enchanting and inventive in its own.