The Jungle Book (2016) – Film Review
As a “man cub” raised from infancy by a pack of wolves in the Indian jungle, the ways of the wild is all Mowgli (Neel Seethi) really knows. Having been trained to live like a wolf by his adoptive wolf mother, Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), and a black panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Mowgli is encouraged to do things the way a wolf or animal would rather than employ his own human ways or “tricks”.
Already Mowgli falls behind his four-legged brothers and sisters but on one fateful day, Mowgli faces an even bigger challenge when his life is threatened by the resentful Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a scarred tiger that imposes a bargain on the wolf pack for Mowgli’s life: they either give Mowgli up to get killed or they all die. Mowgli is forced to come face to face with the idea that maybe a man cub really has no place in the jungle.
The original 1960s Disney version has of course been the revered favourite, but I would say that the elements that come together for this 2016 live action remake really do this cover venture justice. The Jungle Book 2016 definitely preserves the essence of the original film with the added benefit that the viewing experience is more life-like than ever before.
For such a visually impressive film, you will be pleased to know that the acting and voice-over performances are strong and satisfying. Both Lupita Nyong’o and Scarlett Johansson live up to their hype as actors, showing that their vocal performances are just as compelling as their on-screen performances.
Neel Sethi’s does a solid job as the lead. The Jungle Book needed someone as adorable as Sethi to perform the brave and determined, yet playful little Mowgli. Given the fact that Sethi is surrounded by an all-adult cast and that this is his first go at acting, I would say he does a really good job in this film. I would even go further to say that Sethi looks quite natural on screen especially since all he had to work with on set was a green screen and his imagination.
It is debatable as to whether this movie is suitable for children, however. One would assume that this Disney remake would have been made especially for children but with it being an adventure flick, it is filled with a lot of tension, drama and violence that may give your kids the chills rather than excitement. This movie seems more suited for a more mature audience who grew up reading or watching the original Jungle Book as children and would appreciate watching something similar with a thrill that carries more intensity. For Christian audiences, apart from the great storytelling and sense of adventure, there is a fair amount of paganism. Mowgli is made to bow down to the animals repeatedly and chant certain “creeds of the jungle”, so if you are sensitive about that influencing your kids, I suggest you watch it child-free, or at least practice more caution.
Other than that, I can not deny that The Jungle Book 2016 provides a thrilling viewing experience. It certainly is a phenomenal way to witness one of Disney’s classics in a way that is relevant to today’s mainstream cinema culture. With that being said, my only regret is that I did not watch it in 3D.