FilmReview

Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ is the Jungle VIP

Wyatt Muma ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor

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Neel Sethi in The Jungle Book. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

Whether you like it or not, Hollywood is deep in on the reboot game. From Jurassic World to The Force Awakens, there’s no doubt that we’re in an age of intellectual properties. The general consensus on these films is that they’re of a lesser rank than original properties. Undeserving of real consideration, a reboot is just an unfortunate, unwanted rehash of stories that don’t need to be retold. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book challenges all these preconceptions. The film, telling the story of young Mowgli’s (Neel Sethi) romps throughout the forest alongside his animal friends Baloo (Bill Murray) and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), is a stunning and emotionally mature retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s tale as old as time.

The film, while stellar in many areas, will most likely be remembered for its mastery of motion capture characters. Building upon techniques built up by James Cameron, the jungle has never looked more lush and inviting. Everything from the fur to the plants looks incredibly detailed and photorealistic. The effect isn’t as nauseating as some audiences might fear, instead allowing the viewer to be fully immersed in Mowgli’s world. That’s not to discredit the performances, which are also top notch endeavors. It’s a credit to actors like Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, and Lupita Nyong’o that their beguiling personalities shine through only their voice. Bill Murray as Baloo is especially a standout, giving even original voice actor Phil Harris a run for his money.

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Neel Sethi in The Jungle Book. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

Luckily, none of the technological advances or marquee names can fully detract from the story. The original premise of the book stays intact, with more focus than previous adaptations on what it means to be home. Mowgli’s struggle through the jungle has never been more relevant, with the community shunning someone seen as different being a hot topic of discussion in today’s political climate.  With such a popular story being adapted so many times (this is Disney’s third, not counting sequels) it’s interesting that Favreau was able to find something new to say.

While Disney is hot on making these live action revivals, it’s intriguing that the ones that seem to be most thematically successful are the adaptations that don’t work to overhaul the original. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent are something pretty to look at, but failed to gain any traction when it comes to good storytelling. Between The Jungle Book and last year’s Cinderella, it seems as if Disney is really hitting its stride. In his original speech at the opening day of Disneyland, Walt Disney proclaimed that Disneyland will never be finished as long as there’s imagination and creativity in the world. Luckily for audiences, it seems that they have adopted this mantra at the studios as well. Walt Disney’s animated films have become more than just movies, but are now integral to American folklore. If there’s still enough imagination and creativity to tell them again in new and interesting ways, let them be told!

Overall Grade: A

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