If you are expecting 'The Jungle Book' to be a new-age, rehashed version of your favourite childhood classic, then you are right, but only partially. Although director Jon Favereau's film will take you down the memory lane to revisit Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo from your days of waiting for a week to catch the familiar tune of “Jungle jungle baat chali hai...” every Sunday, a few minutes into the film will make you realise that this is not the story of Mowgli's adventures in the jungle. Favereau's 'The Jungle Book' is an intelligent, mature and dark portrayal of the law of the jungle— the survival of the fittest—packaged into a stunning visual spectacle. So much so, that you wouldn't want to blink your eyes for the fear of missing out the milliseconds of what unfolds on the screen. This film will make you sit on the edge of the seat from beginning till the end, and might even scare you now and then.
Favereau makes the best of each minute spent in storytelling. Without wasting any time, the story starts from where now ten-year-old Mowgli knows that although he was raised by wolves, Akela and Raksha (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong'o), he is not one of them, but is a man cub. His mentor and friend Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the panther, repeatedly tells him to act like a wolf and stick to the pack, but Mowgli cannot help using man tricks to achieve what wolves can.
Then comes the dry season and the green jungle is hit by a drought. All animals call for a 'water truce' and gather at a sole watering hole to survive the season. Mowgli joins the gathering with his pack. While most animals are curious about the man cub that can walk on two legs, the fierce Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who has had a bitter experience with a man before, is infuriated by Mowgli's presence in the jungle and vows to come after him with the arrival of rains. The wolf council decides that Mowgli must go to a man village for the pack's as well as his own safety. This is where the roller-coaster ride of extraordinary computer graphics, visual effects and nail-biting adventure begins and the narrative takes a detour into the dark heart of the jungle and the fights for the survival.
At various stages, the film explores and exposes the different faces of the jungle. It takes you through dense forests to lush grasslands to slush and land slides to creepy, misty depths of the jungle to bright and cheerful gardens of wild flowers. However, the fast-paced narrative gives you little time to appreciate the beautiful computer-generated landscapes, and instead keeps bringing you back to the excellent characters made using computer-generated imagery. Villainous Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) with hypnotic eyes and evil intent, happy-go-lucky Baloo (Bill Murray) who takes it upon himself to teach Mowgli 'bare necessities' of life, greedy and raucous King Louie (Christopher Walken), a Gigantopithecus ape, ferocious yet loving Raksha, heroic Bagheera and revengeful Shere Khan are every bit magnificent, believable and as real as it can get.
There are many scenes in the film that take your breath away and make your heart skip a beat. I am not even trying to describe them for no words can do justice to what you experience while watching them. The film is no more a children's story turned into a cinematic experience but a narrative for all ages with highest levels of fine detailing and nuances that can come only with the real admiration for Rudyard Kipling's timeless tale. A must watch!
Film: The Jungle Book
*Director: Jon Favreau *
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken