The Jungle Book: A Dark Delight

I was dreading watching this film. Although I will never argue that the classic 1967 version of The Jungle Book is the best Disney film, I recognise its importance. I simply didn’t understand why on earth they would touch a film so revered.

Then I saw Disney’s live action Cinderella and I wasn’t appalled. In fact, I thought it was dope and my little girl adores it.

But this film… this film is another beast entirely. Jon Favreau’s version could be better than the one made nearly 50 years ago. We are talking about a game-changing movie here.

The Jungle Book gets almost everything right. It is deeply respectful to the ’67 version, but it feels grander, more epic and darker in tone,

That final point could be its only real negative point. This film is bloody dark and scarier than I expected. I heard numerous children at my screening cower to their parents. I don’t blame them, there were points in this film where I was genuinely unnerved but I loved the film for making me feel that way – I am not sure a 6 year old will feel the same.

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Scarlett Johansson’s appearance in this film is one of the most memorable sequences I have ever experienced in cinema. I don’t want to spoil it, but everything from the set up, Scarlett’s voice and the conclusion is skin crawlingly perfect. Again, I have no idea how the younger audience will sleep after seeing that scene.

All of the voice acting in this film is bloody top notch. Bill Murray as Baloo is as you’d expect, Ben Kingsley is cool, Idris is… let me linger on Idris for a minute.  Mr Elba is a wonderful actor – one of the best we have produced in this country and I believe that with every fibre of my being. He shows his quality again with his turn as Shere Khan.

But it is Christopher Walken as King Louie who steals the whole bloody show. Again, I’m not going to ruin it, but I dare you to watch his bit without smiling.

It feels cruel not to lavish young Neel Sethi with praise. He anchors the film very well but the lad is surrounded by a deep well of world class actors. It’s not like he is an after thought, but he has Bill Murray and Sir Ben Kingsley opposite him for crying out loud.

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It’s just hit me that a lot of this film is CGI. I didn’t once notice while I was watching. Hmmm. That tells you all you need to know.

Favreau is slyly becoming one of the most important directors around. I think he has kick-started something with this film – just like he did with Iron Man in 2008.

The only real reasons I can think someone would dislike this film is if they found it too dark or the 1967 version is simply their favourite film of all time. Both of these are not a good enough excuse.

The biggest compliment I can pay this film is that I trust Disney to make a live version of The Lion King. If this is the direction they want to go, remaking their classic animation films, The Jungle Book should be their ‘trust us’ card. So, go ahead Disney… make The Lion King… it’s cool.

But don’t you dare touch Aladdin.

 

@biteschoco

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