Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer
In all honesty, waiting to see realistic reboots of classic Disney movies can be nerve-wracking. Growing up watching Disney’s best on a VCR brings about a certain reminiscence that not all reboots can match.
Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book,” however, has a way of making the audience feel as though they’re sitting on their living room couch, watching the tale of the man-cub for the first time all over again.
This gorgeous, dark twist on Rudyard Kipling’s story has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of publication, and for good reason. Following the animated version’s storyline in most aspects, while incorporating new age technology and CGI, makes for a roller coaster of emotions, even for a 20-year-old college student.
The story’s premise, at heart, is spot on. Mowgli, a man-cub raised by wolves and played by Neel Sethi, is forced to leave his home in the jungle after the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) comes after him.
With the help of his guardian, a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and his lovable, humorous bear friend Baloo (Bill Murray), Mowgli makes it through a serpent’s spell, an angry orangutan’s desires and more on a journey to become a man, not a wolf.
Favreau did not hold back on making this version darker than the original, and it was a safe bet coming from the director who reinvigorated comic book movies (see: “Iron Man.”) Although there was comic relief throughout and the classic happy ending, the team behind “The Jungle Book” did not pull any punches ripping out the heartstrings.
It seems as though Favreau’s intention was to take that audience who grew up watching the animated version and present them with a darker, more muscled up version of the tale. While this is not a bad thing, it did make for quite a shock when animals died and creatures jump-scared us out of nowhere. It did, though, provide a unique, new twist on the lighthearted classic.
But things like Baloo floating down the river with Mowgli singing “The Bare Necessities,” Mowgli venturing through the woods with Bagheera and the hypnotizing eyes of the sneaky serpent Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) brought the movie home.
The movie as a whole, however, had gorgeous scenery and images so realistic that, in some parts, you might forget it’s all CGI. It was as if you could reach out and touch Baloo’s fur or pick a flower off the screen. But for almost the entire movie, the only real aspect was Mowgli.
At the same time, this did present some complications. While the animals looked as though they were real, the movement when they spoke did not.
It was as if they were speaking through human mouths. While it is hard to make it seem natural that an animal is talking, their expressions sometimes reeled in more focus than what they were actually saying.
In addition, “The Jungle Book” made feisty orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken) look more like King Kong and made Kaa appear to be as long as the jungle itself, weaving through trees dozens of feet away from each other. While the exaggeration of elements in a movie can be a plus, the mark fell short in some aspects.
Overall, the film provided a sense of wonder not many live-action remakes can touch. Not only was it visually beautiful, but the underlying messages were too.
You sympathize with the fact that Mowgli, this somewhat awkward boy trying to find his true self in a jungle, stands up to the fears getting in his way. You want to run and give Mowgli’s wolf mother Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) a hug as she watches the “son” she raised leave her behind to go to the man’s village.
You understand the struggles and hardships that come with unlikely friendships by looking at Baloo and Mowgli. You feel like a kid again. And reboot or not, that sense of nostalgia is what Disney’s all about.
Featured Image: Courtesy | Walt Disney Pictures