The film is directed by Jon Favreau...
What's it about
This version of the movie is based on the 1967 animated flick (which is very much different from the television series you have watched in your childhood).
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a 'man-cub' brought up by a pack of wolves, and mentored by a black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). Mowgli is always reminded by Bagheera and his adopted father Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) that he should behave more like a wolf than a human. But his mother Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) never makes lets such petty matters come in between her love for him. Even though the rest of the animals is kind of habituated with the presence of the man-cub among them, Mowgli has a mortal enemy in Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who is looking to avenge the scars on his face caused by the humans and their red flower (fire). When Shere Khan threatens the wolf pack to give Mowgli, Bagheera decides it's time for Mowgli to return to the humans. On the way they get separated, and Mowgli finds more dangers in the form of a python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and a mad Gigantopithecus King Louie (Christopher Walken). But help is always around the corner in the form of Baloo (a scenery chewing Bill Murray), a lazy but conniving bear. Will Mowgli be safe from the clutches of Shere Khan and return to his roots is what the film is all about...
If you were impressed with the trailers, you will be BLOWN AWAY by the film! Let me say it very slow....the CGI is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.! The rendering of the animals and the surrounding are so flawlessly done that you can't imagine even for a single moment that the film is made in a studio in Downtown, Los Angeles. Every minute detail, every intricate feature in the film (even the fantastic end-credits) is so lovingly crafted, that you will feel that you are a part of the jungle along with Mowgli. Just check out the loving gaze of Raksha, the cute little wolf cub Grey, the furs on Baloo and the scars on Shere Khan... Hats off to the entire VFX team!
The background score matches the mood and even the songs, especially Bill Murray and Neel Sethi's Bare Necessities come at the right moment. The humour is aplenty (watch out for the scene when Baloo cons Mowgli into stealing honeycomb), but there are scares as well (the entire Kaa sequence).
Now for the acting part. If any Oscar jury is reading this, it's my humble request to nominate Neel Sethi in the acting category. The kid's performance is mind-blowing! It's not easy to act with nothing but reference points and green screens, but Neel's performance is what makes everything so believable.Not only is the kid cute, his performance can even give takkar to acting legends. Even the rest of the voice cast, including an affable Bill Murray and a hypnotic Scarlett Johansson is so spot on. Special mention must be given to Idris Elba and Christopher Walken's casting (they so remind us of their characters in Beasts of No Nations and True Romance respectively).
However, forget the top class visual effects...forget the brilliant motion capture technology used here...the real hero of the film is the director Jon Favreau. The man who is the reason why Marvel Cinematic Universe exists in the first place (He directed Iron Man 1 and 2), has taken so much painstaking efforts to bring your childhood back to you. And when I say childhood, I mean not the Shinchan and Pokemon one, but the era before that - the '90s one! More than the kids, it's the parents who will enjoy this movie more. And we have to thank Jon Favreau for making us relive our childhood.
There are slight pacing issues, but that's not something to lose your sleep over. While the rendering of the rest of the animals are top-notch, I do feel Kaa could have been made more scary. The Scarlett Johansson fans could be disappointed, as the Kaa scene (though the setting is terrifying) is not too long, but if you have watched the 1967 version, you will know exactly how it will pan out. Also there is no explanation as to why some animals can speak English while the rest can't.
What to do
This is one of the best Jungle Book adaptions on screen and also one of the best live action motion-capture films I have seen in years. Just wondering how Warner Bros will top this with their version of the book that will come next year.
The summer holidays just started off with a bang!
4.5 out of 5
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