I haven't read the books or done anything more than watch the original hand-drawn animation of the first Disney's The Jungle Book. That being said, this film's plot isn't doing anything really radical with its source material (as far as I can tell) but I shall avoid spoilers regardless.
I came into this film with moderate expectations. I've never been a huge fan of the animated classic produced by Disney, but by no means did I hate it. I heard that some people had issues with the way the animals moved when they spoke, but I didn't really feel put off at all. Rather, I was excited when I saw the amazing list of voice actors. I came away with a bit more satisfaction than I expected I would.
As you might expect, it's a story of adventure both in the physical regard as well as in a maturing facility. Mowgli, the main character and really the only human (played by newcomer 12 year old Neel Sethi) has been raised by wolves and more or less accepted as one of them. However, Shere Kahn (voiced by Idris Elba) basically promises to murder him and kill anyone who stands in his way. Mowgli leaves in order to protect the wolves. He is led by Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) for a time before meeting other important individuals from the jungle.
Some important things to note.
- The voice acting is fantastic and worth the price of admission alone
- The CG is mind-blowingly good, especially when you consider it was all filmed in Los Angeles that everyone knows has great expansive jungles
- Also, wolf cubs that I desperately wanted to hold, despite being completely computer generated
- While it is aimed for children, it's a bit dark and intense and I greatly enjoyed myself through every moment of it
The (Vocal) Performance
Neel Sethi does an excellent job as Mowgli but while he is technically the star of the film, the voice cast is astoundingly good.
- Idris Elba as Shere Kahn- Elba is a fantastic actor for being able to play a variety of roles, in particular a terrifying home invader in No Good Deed. His physical bulk seemed to be a main reason why he was so threatening, but his voice is clearly a huge factor in his presence, even when playing through a murderous tiger
- Ben Kingsley as Bagheera- Kingsley has always had a wise-old character voice and it shows
- Bill Murray as Baloo- You most likely know Murray and while he does a good job here, he doesn't stand out. He does get to sing the infamous, however.
- Christopher Walken as King Louie- Louie is an absolute monster in this film and while I originally was uncertain of the voice, Walken does a fantastic job creating another intimidating monster. He also gets to help sing his character's song, but personally I found it more of a low moment
- Scarlett Johansson as Kaa- Johansson has started adding voice acting to her range (most notably with the film Her) and she does a very, very good job as the mmonstrouspython. Personally, I wanted more.
- Lupita Nyong'o as Raksha- Nyong'o voices the mother wolf who adopted Mowgli and serves as a great emotional aside character, breathing life into the wolf to the point you easily accept the individual presented
- Giancarlo Esposito as Akela- the alpha wolf, I guess I hadn't realized just how intense Esposito's voice was. Akela's character might not do a whole lot in the film, but the voice alone establishes a lot in regards to the wolf's dominance and venerability
It's these little things that help me appreciate the film so much more.
There's a bit of violence, as you'd expect from a jungle, with some intense scenes and scenarios. There's really nothing you should worry about, but the villains themselves can be frightening for much younger viewers.
I expected this film to be pretty decent, at the very least. As it turns out, it rose above my expectations. I only had a few complaints (the King Louie song segment and small, minor things). By and far, the technical prowess of this film is at the very least comparable to Avatar, but in my opinion this beats it. I seriously wanted to hold and cuddle one of those ridiculously precious wolf cubs. The pacing is wonderful and I never found myself bored and waiting for the next scene to start. Music is solid and the story adapted is also very good. Really, it's a very good solid movie with little to no turnoffs for me. I'd highly recommend seeing it when you can.
- Absolutely fantastic visuals (on par or better than Avatar imo)
- Great cast with wonderful voice acting performances
- Strong plot and music
- Great pacing with no room for boredom
- Easily accessible for all audiences
- When recommend you to watch when you can