Adding to Disney’s growing number of remakes, director Jon Favreau delves into Rudyard Kipling’s books and offers a live-action counterpart to Wolfgang Reitherman’s 1967 classic The Jungle Book.
Unbelievably, the entire film was shot within studios in Los Angeles. However, instead of synthetic and hollow looking environments, we get immersive and dynamic landscapes, that give the revered CGI work in films such as Avatar and Life of Pi a run for their money.
Along with the impressive technological achievements, brilliant voice casting breathes life into familiar characters. Ben Kingsley is a wise Bagheera, while Bill Murray brings his pitch-perfect comedy to the role of Baloo. Scarlett Johansson offers her seductive tone to Kaa and Christopher Walken is his trademark offbeat self as King Louie.
Most striking is Idris Elba as Shere Khan, menacing both children and adults with his calm but piercing delivery. Neel Sethi as Mowgli is the only physical performance and the young actor is wonderful to watch, made all the more impressive as he had to act against a green screen in his feature film debut.
Favreau’s version focuses on other aspects that were missing from Reitherman’s film, such as the “water truce” and is an overall darker affair, but remains fun in places with favourite songs such as The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You both included.
The Jungle Book is a rare remake that serves a purpose. Respecting the source material and featuring enough of what audiences responded to the first time around, but brings new elements to the table and offers a fresh, new tone. I may not be sold on Disney remaking all of my childhood favourites, but The Jungle Book is certainly a success story.