A Wild New Look for an Old Classic


Originally written by Rudyard Kipling in 1893 to 1894, “The Jungle Book” was actually a collection of stories that were published in magazines. Now almost 50 years after Disney’s original cartoon animated classic debuted in 1967, the recreation of “The Jungle Book” surpasses the standards set by the old classic. Although this action packed film has its fair share of nuances from the original movie, it ultimately captures the essence of the balance between man and nature.

The story is centered on the man cub Mowgli, who is a real child (Neel Sethi). The beginning of the tale is very similar to the original film. The loyal panther, named Bagherra (Ben Kingsley), finds the abandoned Mowgli in the jungle and asks the wolves to raise him. Having been cared for by the affectionate Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito), the jungle is his home, and he is like a brother to the other wolf pups.

All is well until Mowgli’s life is in danger when the tiger, Shere Khan, threatens him. When the wolves meet to discuss the future of Mowgli, he volunteers to leave. Guided by the faithful Bagheera, the two soon encounter Shere Khan on their way to the man village and are separated. Mowgli soon finds himself near death in the coils of a giant snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), and into the tricks of the bear, Baloo (Bill Murray) who promises to let him stay if he uses he helps him retrieve honey. He also encounters the king ape Louie (Christopher Walken), who demands he tell him how to make fire or what is known as the “red flower” to the animals.

Meanwhile, Shere Khan is on a quest for vengeance. Shere Khan does not want Mowgli simply to go to the man village; he wants to see Mowgli dead. He wants revenge because Mowgli’s father had burned him with the “red flower.” In turn, Shere Khan killed his father and that is why Mowgli was abandoned.

Despite the a more complex story line than the original, Jon Favreau, who also directed Iron Man, includes the carefree nature of Baloo who, of course, sings “Bear Necessities” and King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You.” Although this singing may seem a bit abrupt, it provides a nice break from all of the running and chasing.

The graphics have definitely been revamped from the animated version. The computer generated talking animals are quite believable and almost thrilling or uncanny. However, what may be even more significant is the changes in the story line. Complex ideas are cleverly woven in such as the destruction of man and fire as well as allusions to peace.

Needless to say, a few tears were shed (I know, how can that be remotely possible with talking animals?). And of course, I couldn’t help but find myself humming along to “Bear Necessities” as I exited the theater.