I said in my Top 5 of animated films this week that the Jungle Book is one of my favourite animated films ever and one of the first that I ever watched. Disney have now released 4 live action adaptations with varying levels of success, but this is one that I was very excited for. And boy does it deliver.
I always feel that adaptations are best when they’re not just a complete rehash of what has gone before, instead bringing a slightly different take. And Jungle Book does exactly there; a lot of the campiness of the animated version is gone. We still get some hugely fun sequences, but Shere Khan is a potentially very scary character for some younger children. The scenes with him are far darker and more intense than the original.
But now let’s talk about the voice cast, and what a voice cast it is. The only live action actor in the film is newcomer Neel Sethi, and he does a remarkable job for such a young actor who has to work with so much CGI. Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray are both perfect as Bagheera and Baloo, whilst Idris Elba brings such menace to Shere Khan. Christopher Walken’s King Louis is one of the most entertaining parts of the film, and steals the show in his scenes.
One of the film’s most important aspects is the CGI. Almost everything in the film is done with special effects, but you barely notice this. The quality is such that you are completely immersed in the world of the jungle. Thankfully this doesn’t come at the expense of the story however. The film feels slightly more focused than the original cartoon, setting up motivations and an ending far better, leading to a truly emotional and heartfelt climax.
The Jungle Book is one of the strongest films that I have seen this year, possibly even the best so far, I loved it from start to finish and think it will be in contention for my favourite film of the year.