What an excellent movie! I was expecting this to be a fantastic film so it would have been easy for it to fall short of my expectations. However, it definitely did not disappoint. From the opening scene I was already feeling nostalgic and it had me hooked all the way until it closed the book.
I have to be nit picky to complain about anything because it really was a great movie. However, for a PG movie it had some rather dark or scary moments. It had not 1, not 2, but 3 scenes that make you jump out of your seat in fright. I imagine that there will be some younger children that shed a few scared tears when watching this for the first time. That being said, the jungle is a scary place, so I would probably be complaining more so if the movie didn’t have some dark and suspenseful moments. My first impression of Shere Kahn was “Hmm, Idris Elba’s voice actually doesn’t fit this character that well,” but I think I grew fonder of it as the movie went on. One I didn’t understand was why some animals couldn’t talk while all the other could. The elephants and monkeys (outside of Louie never said a word while just about every other animal said something, even if it was just a cute like word or phrase over and over. Also, I am a bit disappointed that the vultures that were so important in Mowgli’s big standoff with Shere Kahn in the 1967 classic were pretty much nowhere to be found in this version, Oh well.
Literally my first two thoughts about the movie as it started were “Yes! The original background music!” and “Wow! Ben Kingsley’s voice is absolutely perfect as Bagheera!” Pretty good way to start. There were so many things that I enjoyed about this film that I am positive I won’t be able to include them all. I just loved watching the way all the animals interacted with each other. They all had distinct personalities and most of the non-essential characters were really funny to listen to. Bill Murray was hilarious from the moment he entered the movie and his back and forth relationship with Mowgli and Bagheera had me cracking up for what seemed like minutes straight. In addition to being funny and heartwarming, there were many scenes in the movie that were actually really intense. I loved the King Louie scene and thought Christopher Walken was a great choice for that role. The new version of “I Wanna Be Like You” really sent chills of nostalgia down my spine.
In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the concept of “The Law” and how every animal needs to abide by it. This is illustrated by how every animal seems to know inherently that no hunting can be done when the water level in the watering hole is so low that you can see peace rock. Even Shere Kahn abides by the law for the most part. It was kind of an interesting wrinkle thrown in by the screen writers that probably was meant to give a little time for plot development between when Shere Kahn discovers Mowgli with the wolves and when he actually can start trying to hunt him down. Speaking of the wolves, I loved the dynamic of the wolf pack. Akela(may he rest in peace) was a great leader and everyone seemed to submit to his authority; yet he was caring of the best interests of the pack and didn’t abuse his leadership power.
I am honestly not too bothered by some of the bigger changes to the plot such as the fact that he never goes back to live in the man-village like he did in the animated movie. It really doesn’t take away from the story at all. Instead, the movie decides to go a different route. Mowgli chooses to not use the “Red Flower” to fight Shere Kahn as he did in the animated classic, because all of the other animals are scared by it and he wants to show them that he belongs in the jungle and not with man. He does, however, accidentally start a fire which he ends up helping to kill Shere Kahn anyway. After that scene, Mowgli decides to stay in the jungle but it seems that he stops trying to be a wolf and starts trying to be himself more.
From beginning to end I was glued to the screen. The film was cute, heartwarming, sad, suspenseful, funny, frightening, intense, and happy all at the same time. These are characteristics that help make an all-around great movie. This was honestly one of the best live-action movies that I have seen in a long time and I was pleasantly surprised that they were able to fit everything in without it being terribly long. It was a great blend of modern CGI and storytelling while giving due homage to the 1967 Disney animated classic.