It took quite some time, more than half a century, for this classic cartoon to turn into a feature movie, but it is quite worth the wait. Disney continue the path of conversion that they started some time ago with Cinderella, and they have been quite successful so far.
At the helm of the talented Jon Favreau, who also directed Iron Man and Chef, the Indian jungle appeared vividly, of course with thanks to the advanced GUI technology nowadays. But the new Jungle Book is more than that. It’s not just a beautiful empty shell. It managed to retell the evergreen story convincingly and engagingly, and with some surprising twists that really helped elevate that whole plot line.
As the movie was longer than the animated version, there was more room for the story to develop fully. Therefore, we had the chance to understand more about the start of Mowgli’s life in the jungle, and built a stronger bond with the characters, especially the supporting ones that only appeared in a flash in the animated movie. We knew why the wolf pack had to let him go, felt their pains when they did so, and symphathized with them more. And that made it easier to accept the truth.
It was also clearer why all the animals in the jungle thought about Shere Khan with that fear and trembling voices. That was really not an ordinary tiger. The production team really did a great job in building such a fearsome creature. Big, bulky, brawny and scary. There was simply no match with one to one battle at all. And the redeveloped story also helped us understand more clearly why Shere Khan hated men so much, which really explained a lot of what happened in Mowgli’s adventure.
Despite being the first time in a movie, and the only real actor (all other animals were computer generated) the boy fitted into the role of Mowgli really well. He had to act with props, imagining everything around him, yet his acting was still natural. If he really has no formal training, then he must be a child genius. Let’s see if this role can be his ticket to stardom or he wil disappear from the scene like countless other child stars before him. Only time will tell.
The movie was nowhere near as cheerful as the animation. The theme was darker and there were more action and fighting scenes. There were deaths and sacrifices, but all the pieces in the end fall together nicely to create a complete, logical and rational picture of the jungle book. A strong plot that explained everything convincingly. A nice remake that will attract and satisfy most Disney fans.
Last but not least, I love the actors who voiced the characters. They really did a great job in showcasing their unique sides. Shere Khan sounded fierce, powerful and scary. Bagheera was caring but stiff and fatherly. Barloo was cheerful, sincere and warm. And Kaa was amazing, mystified and hypnotized from the first words. And the way Scarlett sang “Trust in me” was really incredible.
I love the rendition of the old songs too. They sounded very different, but interesting and refreshing, more modern and can click better with current trend of R&B and pop. A nice touch. And overall I’m impressed. Can’t wait to catch it on DVD again.