When I was younger I had the Jungle Book on VHS, (not that this fact makes me particularly special or anything having grown up in the 90’s and all) but from what I can remember, we didn’t have any other Disney movies on Video, just a whole lot of Kids Praise. But I digress. I would stare intently at the TV singing and dancing along, then when it was over I would rewind the tape and take it from the top at least half a dozen times in a day.
Fast forward to the present, where I have the personality of an 85 year old man; as soon as I heard about the live action remake of The Jungle Book I was immediately against it (we old men hate change). However after watching the trailer my age came down sixty years and I was intrigued and dare I say even slightly excited about the revival of one of my favourite Disney movies.
Not an obvious place to start, but well deserved nonetheless; The Soundtrack. What worked so well, wasn’t just the more obvious renditions of the familiar songs, but the background music that after a beat of two, you realised were tasteful instrumentals of the songs you thought they had missed. Here’s a taster of a revamped, Trust In Me
However that being said – and still not disputing the beauty of the soundtrack – my question would be; Could you call this live action version a musical? Sometimes the singing felt natural within the world that had been created, and at other times it left you perplexed as you tried to understand why a Gorilla spontaneously burst into song.
The whole band got back together for this film; Baloo, Bagheera, Raksha and Kaa etc. and yet their stories felt fragmented as certain characters paths never crossed, and others appeared for their scene and were never seen again. To a certain extent you could say it worked like a book; a different chapter introduced for a short while a new character, before the protagonist continued on their journey, circling back to meet their antagonist for the final battle. And yet I still ask myself what happened to those characters once we’ve turned the page, their story never having come to a close.
I’m a little bias on the subject but Idris Elba slayed as Shere Khan.
The brutality in Khan’s British accent gave you a pleasurably wicked chill, as the tiger managed to display authoritative traits of a Kingpin; decisive, short tempered, and in it for the long game. Whereas the animated Khan held a sense of calm and charisma, his upgrade went straight for the kill, never for a second letting anybody forget to fear him.
Our little frog was played by twelve year old Neel Sethi, The Jungle Book being his debut film, and oh my god they chose the cutest kid to play Mowgli?!
Admittedly it was a little hard at first to buy into his character, as he just seemed like a little kid playing make believe in his back ‘jungle like’ garden, where Bagheera is a black cat and Baloo is teddy bear. However I warmed up to his tricks, attitude and the honesty in his childlike behaviour. The relationship that he formed with Baloo, and his reliance on Bagheera were inspirational and did nothing but make me a little jealous that I didn’t have a talking Panther to protect me from the ways of the concrete jungle. Finally it was great to have more emphasis on Raksha and the wolfpack, as they were his family, they raised him and we watched as they struggled in determining how to deal with the threat of Shere Khan and the man Mowgli would eventually grow up to become.
As you know from my nostalgic opening I’ve seen the 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book countless times – however more recently I had the pleasure of reading the book of the same name of which it was based, written by Rudyard Kipling. Once you walk down the literary route of adaptation, there’s no going back, and so you will have to excuse me for my next typically pretentious sentence; The film was nothing like the movie. I’m not stating that one was better than the other – considering I have only read the first book – it’s just interesting and probably a little on the side of egotistical, that Disney chose to remake the classic based on their own adaptation which has since become a classic. Trippy right?
Will it ever be as cherished as the original animated tale of a misunderstood jungle kid with an identity crisis that we all related to on some level?
Of course not.
But with Disney un-animating Princesses, Puppets and Pooh, The Jungle Book now sits at the helm of classics for a new generation.