The Jungle Book
Landmark CGI Film

Joe Favreau

Justin Marks

Movie Review
The Jungle Book:Defining an Epoch in CGI History



Boldly produced in an age where the term ‘remake’ is often met with skepticism and apprehension, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book seamlessly blends sincere storytelling with jaw-dropping visual effects and pure, aural indulgence.

Based on Rudyard Kipling’s widely celebrated fables, this 2016 adaptation centers on Mowgli the ‘man-cub’ and his anthropomorphic animal friends as he journeys through a harsh jungle that is packed with adventure and heartwarming moral lessons. Right from the first frame, both children and adults alike are immersed in this visually fascinating retelling of the boy who was raised by a pack of wolves, and his relationship with Bagheera the black panther, Baloo the bear, and the Indian jungle. However, when the frightening, battle-scarred tiger Shere Khan catches his scent, a very reluctant Mowgli is forced to flee his home in an attempt to rejoin his own kind, resulting in some gripping action and moving dialogue that is sure to render audiences thoroughly entertained.

With a stellar cast that boasts the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Bill Murray (Baloo), Idris Elba (Sher Khan), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), director Jon Favreau himself, and even comedian Russell Peters, The Jungle Book grants viewers an unforgettable experience that will leave one grinning with nostalgia. Through Shere Khan’s terrifying wrath, Raksha’s motherly love, Bagheera’s protective nature, Baloo’s endearing and much-needed comic relief, and Kaa’s mesmerizing presence, Rudyard Kipling’s imaginative world is brought to life in this visually striking and seamlessly executed package. Akela, too, is portrayed well, while King Louie’s slightly revamped but gratifying image will probably take viewers a few seconds to digest. More importantly, though, The Jungle Book isn’t burdened with racial stereotypes or whitewashing, as Hollywood is generally inclined to be – the cast is diverse, and each performance is well-earned and beautifully executed.

In spite of its A-list ensemble and their mostly flawless performances, however, it is Indian-American 7th-grader Neel Sethi who steals the show with his lively yet mischievous portrayal of our willful protagonist, Mowgli. Sethi carries the movie on his little shoulders with a charisma and energy that is both noteworthy and supremely entertaining. Needless to say, casting (Sarah Finn) has been spot-on, while editing (Mark Livolsi) and design (Christopher Glass) are immaculate and well-balanced throughout the duration of the film. This is, without the shadow of a doubt, Favreau’s best directorial work thus far, and will most likely set the bar for future CGI-focused films to come.

Through Justin Marks’ writing, this modern-day retelling of Kipling’s timeless tale skillfully weaves faithful narration with riveting visual effects and cinematography. A distinct sense of realism thrives throughout the film, compelling one to question its computer-generated roots and marvel at how Sethi diligently enacted almost every scene in an LA-based studio instead of out in the wilderness, surrounded by the exuberant creatures and picturesque scenery that is translated onto the big screen.

Renowned for his work on similarly stunning films such as Hugo and Avatar, Academy Award-winner Robert Legato (visual effects) expertly steers this live-action/CGI reimagining through its incredibly detailed 3D foundation, while cinematographer Bill Pope paints Mowgli’s world with almost hypnotic depth and precision. Their efforts, combined with Marks’ unhurried, focused screenplay, will no doubt delight audiences across the globe.

John Debney further enhances the experience with a near-pristine musical score, while art directors (Andrew L Jones), special effects wizards (Shaun Friedberg), costume designers (Laura Jean Shannon), and numerous gifted concept artists bring beloved characters to life with flair. Through these meticulous efforts, this new adventure-infused adaptation successfully surpasses Disney’s own 1967 version, whilst capturing the ingenuity and authenticity of Kipling’s original story with a playful, new-age touch. 

Of course, both Marks and Favreau do assume a small amount of artistic license in an effort to incorporate some well-timed humour, as also to establish an effective portrait of Mowgli’s enterprising nature and human roots. Through these embellishments, they have effectively retold a well-known story with a freshness that most remakes often lack, retaining fan favourites such as ‘The Bare Necessities’ but scrapping less significant details in order to deliver a stable narrative. While it is certainly a different interpretation from its more musically-inclined predecessor, it doesn’t appear to falter for one second in its mission to tell Mowgli’s story.

Although viewers are well aware of the outcome of Mowgli’s tale, audiences are left rooted to their seats nonetheless as both director and writer come together to deliver what could very well be present-day Disney’s crowning jewel, resulting in an absolute must-watch for the season.

   Tina Mohandas

Tina Mohandas is a songwriter, musician, tattoo artist, vintage motorcycle collector, and animal rights activist. Having conducted several successful events in London, she is the founder of Inferno Events in India, and co-founder of Bikerhood India. Currently writing her debut fantasy/sci-fi novel, she hopes one day to free every caged animal in the world..

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