Lee and Maria give their opinion on Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” remake.
The phenomenon that is the Disney live-action remakes, kicked off loosely by 2014’s mediocre Maleficent and followed up by 2015’s charming and enjoyable (if somewhat hollow) Cinderella continues to be a great source of dissonance for anyone even remotely interested in movies and the fact that they don’t just disappear from people’s minds after a set period of time. Yes, remakes happen all the time, and almost always make inferior versions of the films they’re based upon, but they don’t usually attempt to strong-arm money by tapping into material as entrenched in the make-up of Western culture as the Disney animated classics. Most will agree that Disney’s Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book are all still good, oft watched films (especially for their age). And as a result, more than ever, the internet is inundated with the masses asking: “Do we really need these remakes?” or in a more convenient phrasing for this review, “Who are these remakes for?”
Well, before we delve too deep, the most important thing to note about Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book is that it’s good. Very good, in fact. So that puts it above most others from the start. But your mileage may vary, and this will probably depend on how familiar/fond you are of the original. So, with the idea that familiarity and context genuinely can affect how much you enjoy a movie, let’s break this down into cold, hard science with our Recommendo-Meter; a system that finds your affection for an original movie (roughly) and tells you what might and might not appeal to you in the remake. Let’s begin.
I REALLY LOVE THE JUNGLE BOOK. IT’S (POSSIBLY) MY FAVOURITE MOVIE, AND ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE REMAKE WOULD MAKE ME UNCOMFORTABLE.
Something of a gamble, but if you can look past some of the differences, you’ll probably find quite a lot to like about this movie. The story is roughly the same; boy (Mowgli) is raised in the jungle, tiger (Sheer Khan) threatens to kill boy, boy goes on adventure to nearby man-village for safety from tiger, all the while meeting loveable animal friends, most of who are interested in eating or manipulating boy in some way.
Some changes to the particulars, like the elephants and Kaa (the snake)’s presence will likely be seen as positives, since they had limited screentime in the original and very limited impact on the plot. Other changes, like Baloo (the bear)’s more obviously selfish plan to use Mowgli and the very limited presence of the songs that gave the original its cool, jazzy identity might detract from your enjoyment of the film.
Still, the ending vastly improves over the original, actually providing a solid payoff for the characters that fits their motivation, and the world! Oh, the world is beautiful. Painstaking efforts were put into making this film look both gorgeous, believable and true to the expressive, animated feel of the original and it pays off in spades.
Recommended?: Yes (with some caveats).
I THINK I LIKED THE JUNGLE BOOK? IT’S BEEN A WHILE. I REMEMBER BARE NECESSITIES AND LIKED IT AS A KID, BUT I WOULDN’T BE RUSHING BACK TO WATCH IT ANYTIME SOON (or something to this affect).
I believe this is the ideal audience for this movie. You liked the original story, or some of the characters, or the world, or the feel of the film, but ultimately you found yourself wanting more from it and wouldn’t find yourself in much of a rush to watch it again.
Well, this film definitely has more. More world-building; assumedly more elements from the actual novel The Jungle Book have been borrowed and used to the film’s advantage. The jungle has rules, a clear hierarchy; all of which works to the film’s advantage as it helps empower the characters that need to feel empowered, and highlight the strengths of those who work within it. For example; we see Sheer Khan’s power over the wolves, and we see the chain of command crumble beneath him. How fast the word travels through the jungle of this victory and how the supporting characters react when they find out the shift in power highlights the strengths of all involved, and really shines a light on how carefully this world has been crafted.
More touching inter-character moments. We get to see more of Mowgli’s natural kind-hearted nature, which makes us more sympathetic towards him. More memorable action scenes. There’s a stampede, there’s an ape attack, there’s a fire; everything stands out clearly, looks great and feels tense and involving.
There’s plenty to recommend to those who liked the original to some degree, because the film takes those elements and makes something fresh and exciting out of them.
Plus, some people can’t watch animation. Some brains are just wired not to intake cartoons as an informative, fun and exciting means of narrative. That’s fine. Here’s your solution.
Recommended?: A more definite yes.
I NEVER LIKED THE JUNGLE BOOK. I HATE THE STORY / THE CHARACTERS / THE SETTING AND THAT PUTS ME OFF.
This version of The Jungle Book is a well told story that focuses more on the characters than the original and less on the songs and the jazz-infused asthetics. And it does all of these very well, and tells a well-rounded story that can be really engrossing. It just happens to involve a boy and some animals.
The songs that played such a huge part in the original are all but gone, with only a chorus or two of Bare Necessities and a refrain from King Louie’s “I Wan’na Be Like You”, which I’m certain was kept in the film just so we could hear Christopher Walken say it in his accent. This should be a huge boost to those who couldn’t handle them in the original.
But if you don’t like the story, or the setting, or even some of the actors (Bill Murray is a brilliant Baloo, or is Baloo just brilliant at being Bill Murray? Either way, if you can’t stand one, you’ll probably not like the other) you might find something to keep you out of the jungle for good.
Recommended? Depends how strongly you dislike The Jungle Book, but I still think it’s worth a shot.
Objectively, The Jungle Book is a film that might use another film as a crutch, but it tells a good story and tells it well. Little things like the songs can seem a little out of place if you’re not familiar with the original, and some kids might be actually pretty scared by the monkeys that appear half-way through the movie (I know I was). But ultimately, it’s a solid recommendation across the board. It’s fun, it’s tense, it’s got the recommended amount of highs and lows, it’s believable, well-acted and looks great. Very little can take away from that.
I normally don’t like real talking animal films and I don’t like the story of The Jungle Book so I wasn’t expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised that this was a really tense and interesting film. Jon Favreau ❤
[Lee’s review was originally posted on 29/04/16]