Disney’s The Jungle Book is certainly a testament to the age of filmmaking we are in. No longer do we need real animals in the jungle, in fact the jungle itself is no longer a necessity.
A few weeks back I posted an article entitled ‘Thank You Disney and Jon Favreau for Keeping Mowgli Brown‘, and it is Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi, that provides the life and human emotion that the film desperately needs. I’m sure you’ve heard, many times, just how real this new Jungle Book film looks and how much of an accomplishment it is for visual effects. I too have read the articles of praise for the computer-generated images but to be perfectly honest, all of Mowgli’s furry counterparts were a long ways off of convincing me of their authenticity. Sure they looked real, but did they look natural? Of course not, but there’s no way a talking bear could. I say this because all the talk I heard going into this film prepared me to be wowed by the vivid and lifelike jungle inhabitants, however I didn’t find them in this film, but that’s not to say that Disney failed to make me believe that they belonged. Rather than set-out to make a realistic jungle with life-like animals, Jon Favreau creates the jungle we imagined as kids, one where animals of all shapes and sizes follow a ‘water truce’ to quench their thirst together during the dry season, where elephants are treated as gods, and where a pack of wolves can raise a ‘man-cub’.
Neel Sethi shines in his breakout role as Mowgli, it is his performance in the red loin cloth that brings life to his animated counterparts, whom without him, would remain as flat as the green screen they were created on. There’s also some excellent voice acting on display here, with the exception of Scarlett Johansson, I can think of a slew of actresses that would’ve brought more to the Kaa character. Idris Elba as Shere Khan is, dare I say, a better Shere Khan than George Sanders. But perhaps the greatest voice acting accomplishment here comes from Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, who is fast becoming one of Hollywood’s go-to actresses for voice work.
Although The Jungle Book is a CGI, perhaps oversized, epic, it has a lot of heart. Jon Favreau is becoming the go-to Filmmaker when it comes to focusing in on what really matters in these massive digital worlds filled with digital characters. Much like in Ironman Jon Favreau has an eye for what really matters in films like these, and that is character. That’s right, real human emotion is what saves The Jungle Book from becoming an overstuffed CGI bore. Neel Sethi reels you in and makes you want to take this adventure with him more than Bill Murray playing a CGI bear ever could. So if you feel so inclined, see Disney’s iteration of The Jungle Book, that is before Warner Bros. makes its own soulless version in a few years.