Big Screen: The Jungle Book
May 9th 2016
I thought that making a new Jungle Book movie was a pretty bold move, considering how important the original Disney film has been for almost two generations of kids. I learned more about the animal kingdom from The Jungle Book than I did from the animal kingdom. So if they were gonna make a new film, it had better be worth it.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
The plot doesn’t deviate far from the story we already know, and that’s no problem. The orphan ‘man-cub’ Mowgli is raised by a pack of wolves, the villainous tiger Shere Khan demands to eat him, Mowgli goes off on a series of adventures. It’s a classic storyline, helped by the next-level CGI that everyone is raving about.
And to be fair, those visual effects are really impressive. They integrate the facial tics of the actors playing each animal, and the scenery is so beautiful you could probably spend most of the film staring at it. It’s also worth noting that this new Jungle Book is by no means a shot-for-shot remake, so kudos for developing the world enough that it’s watchable even with a familiar narrative.
For me, the problem it comes down to is that it’s just no fun. They’ve given it the blockbuster treatment, and it ends up feeling like a cash grab. They tick all the boxes they need to make a good action film but don’t include any of the things that make Disney films enjoyable to watch. There are nods to Apocalypse Now for viewers who don’t have enough Brando in their children’s films, and the action scenes are definitely exciting. But to me, it felt like a movie for kids who were raised on The Lord of the Rings rather than The Lion King.
When there is humour, it’s forced, and most of the actors give one-note performances – which is such a bummer when you’re working with Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johannson and Christopher Walken. The exceptions, however, are Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong’o and Idris Elba. Elba, in particular, plays a Shere Khan who is genuinely chilling, and makes for a climactic finale that is arguably better than the original. Otherwise, it just lacks a lot of heart.
One of the great things about the original Jungle Book was that the characters were nuanced; endearing but also a little bit menacing. It reflected the wild nature of the jungle. There’s very little of that in the reboot. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and unless you’re in the company of five year olds it’s all a bit underwhelming.
This version of The Jungle Book is a ‘catch on a long haul flight’ or ‘put it on in the background to distract your kids’ type of film. Just pull out the original version instead.
– James Ross