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Remake of ‘The Jungle Book’ brings back beloved childhood memories

April 20, 2016

Disney makes another foray into its past to bring about an adaption that for once adds to its original work rather than takes, as The Jungle Book manages to be enjoyable, simple, but true to its source material.

It’s a story many know, but few remember. Mowgli is a young boy in the India wilds who has been raised by wolves his whole life. With only his caretaker, the puma Bagheera, to look out for and mentor him, he feels like he doesn’t belong as a man-cub among the animals of the jungle.

Disney's remake of "The Jungle Book" includes the voices of actors such as Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson.
Disney’s remake of “The Jungle Book” includes the voices of actors such as Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson.

When the vile tiger Shere Khan makes it clear he will kill the man-cub Mowgli out of his hatred for man, Mowlgi moves out on his own journey to find his place in the world, encountering friends like the bear Baloo, the mysterious python Kaa, and the ambitious orangutan King Louie, and Mowlgi hopes to get through every obstacle to find out where he fits as his own animal in a big kingdom.

Suffice to say I did not have such high initial hopes when I saw the previews for The Jungle Book; Disney’s recent phase of converting all their classics into live-action remakes has proven so far to be a mixed bag of mixed results, ranging for okay to stupid.

But I am ever thankful to be thoroughly surprised by The Jungle Book to find that it does not submit itself to clichés, or dumb political plots, or over complicated world-building, but finds its place by being ultimately simple and true to its source.

When I say simple, I mean they skip back stories, they ignore any concepts of confusing magic or mysticism to make you believe any of this is happening. The film respects you and presents its world with a sense of awe, leaving you to make your own decisions on some of the more mystical and abnormal things that appear in the film, and knows that you probably know and love the original as much as it does.

It’s plot is overall pretty simple, with Mowgli’s journey being the same as it was in the books and original movie, but what supplements it is its great direction and animation. The computer graphics in this film are quite respectable, creating the largely animal cast in a way that does not make it look creepy or cringe-worthy at seeing talking digital animals.

The gorgeous nature shots, romps through the jungle, and eerie primitive environments separate this film just enough from the original to make its own thing, and it feels like you are just seeing another side to the original film that you haven’t seen before.

Worth noting is also the acting, featuring such actors as Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson, all quite noticeable from just hearing their roles in the film but delivering good performances, though special recognition should go to newcomer actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli, who manages something not common in being a good child actor portraying Mowgli.

He’s not annoying for the most part, he can act parts out well and deliver the emotion the plot demands, and he’s fairly enjoyable. I couldn’t really find much wrong with his performance, which is a rare thing when it comes to child actors.

If Disney is to continue their run of live-action film adaptions of their past works, then The Jungle Book should be held as a precedent for all upcoming features.

It does not sacrifice emotion but only improves it. It does not try to hook you in with gimmicky wars or conflicts but revels in its world with you. It proves that simplicity in your storytelling, characters, and heart can really be for the best and makes for good cinema overall.