It’s no secret that I love Disney with all my heart and it’s also no secret that animation is an art form that continues to fascinate me as more and more advancements are made with it, so Jon Favreau’s latest blockbuster – the live action remake of Disney’s The Jungle Book – is the perfect fit for what my film-watching soul craves. Not only is this remake a fantastic reworking of the original classic that beats the 1967 movie’s script for sure, but it’s also a visual masterpiece in its design and feel; apart from Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli, every inch of the movie is computer animated to look as realistic as it possibly can. It’s not only a breathtaking idea but it’s equally as stunning when seen for yourself.
My main issue with Disney’s original animated movie was the serious lack of female characters. Gender-heavy movies have never played all too well with me and maybe it’s because I go to a mix-gendered school and keep mix-gendered friends, but I always fail to be convinced by an all-single gender cast no matter what I’m watching. Obviously, this isn’t necesarilly Disney’s fault as The Jungle Book originates from the original novel by Rudyard Kipling, but an effort to fix the problem would’ve been appreciated. This new incarnation however does add in a few more female characters with Scarlett Johannson voicing the originally-male snake Kaa, alongside Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha and Brighton Rose as Gray. It’s not too many women but in a movie that originally only had one female voice (as an Elephant that passed by – shoutout to Verna Felton), it’s a move in the right direction.
World-building in movies is another big love of mine and considering the original movie was set in the jungle, the world that they were in felt decidedly small. Perhaps it’s the contrast between the quite quiet backgrounds in the original movie and the busy, vibrant ones in the 2016 remake, but the jungle in this movie felt just as large as it was intended to feel; when we got to the edge of the jungle, I felt like we were actually at the edge of this wide and expansive jungle and we’d been going around this vast space for a very long time. Much like their adaptation of Into The Woods from 2014, Disney live action movies are getting good at creating believable worlds – especially when trees are involved.
It was also nice to see some music from the original film be used in this movie, despite the additions feeling slightly odd after a while. The full scale musical number of Bare Necessities didn’t feel like a strange addition to the piece as the song itself is sang within the context of the story, but when Christopher Walken’s King Louis starts singing I Wanna Be Like You, I started to get confused: why was this film suddenly bordering on a musical, when it hasn’t been at any other point in the movie so far? It was odd and kind of out of place, but I love musicals (of course) so it wasn’t all too hard to stomach. The film’s script was gorgeous though with much more heart than the original movie in my opinion; the new mother-son relationship between Gray and Mowgli made for a much more touching tale and the context of why Mowgli was in the jungle in the first place being explained at the start of the film made for an easier-to-understand movie, too.
Jon Favreau and the entire team on this film have managed to turn a well-loved but kind of poor movie into a cinematic masterpiece. Through its well-written storytelling, beautiful hands-on direction, and fantastic special effects throughout, the Disney live-action fairytale has never been more glorious.