The jungle is a unique world that has an aura of its own. Despite being ridden with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), there can be harmony and order even among the greatest of chaos. From the picturesque landscapes to the hierarchy in food chains, Jon Favreau shows us all this and more in his version of Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book.
The basic premise of The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy who has been raised by a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and a pack of wolves. The threat of the fierce tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces Mowgli to leave his home. As he journeys throughout the jungle, Mowgli comes across many interesting animal characters along the way, who have their own reasons for seeking out the boy.
At its core, The Jungle Book focuses on self discovery and self acceptance. Throughout the film, Mowgli finds himself struggling to find his place in the jungle, somewhere he really wants to belong and wishes to call home. This internal conflict is somewhat of an existential crisis most humans subconsciously experience on some level. Mowgli’s desire to fit in is so intense that he is taught (and trains himself) to do everything like a wolf without taking shortcuts or using “tricks”.
The chemistry between Mowgli and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray) is very cute and endearing. The interactions between the two bring a turning point in Mowgli’s life, as Mowgli is forced to accept and see his unique ways of surviving and defending himself as assets (rather than liabilities) in the jungle. This journey of self-discovery is beautifully charted over the course of the two-hour film.
As it is set in a jungle, the film also focuses on power relationships and hierarchy in food chains in animal societies. On the one hand are Shere Khan’s threats to get rid of Mowgli, while on the other hand, King Louie (Christopher Walken) tries to entice and sweet-talk Mowgli into helping him gain power by procuring the red flower. The emotions related to these power struggles and inter-animal relationships have been very well captured on the animals’ faces, a difficult feat to accomplish with visual effects and technology.
The Jungle Book has many strengths to its credit. The cinematography by Bill Pope is intense and breathtaking, showcasing the beauties and secrets of jungle living. Complementing the cinematography is excellent background music by John Debney. Even though it is a children’s film, there is quite a bit of scary action and violence, with animals attacking and fighting with one another at certain points. Debutant Neel Sethi has fabulously essayed the role of a lost young boy in a wild and dangerous jungle.
Final Verdict: In The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau transports us to the diverse jungles of India. While the pace of the film feels a bit dragging at times, it is a tale of power, love, and human discovery that has much to offer for viewers of any age. Immerse yourself in nature and escape into a world of wonder!
Rating: 4 stars