Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studio Pictures
How does someone turn a cheesy cartoon into a live-action adventure? According to Disney, CGI animals and fire. At least, that’s what they did in their recent remake of the 1967 cartoon “The Jungle Book.”
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s book, “The Jungle Book” starts off with the orphan
boy Mowgli living in the Indian jungle, but when human-hating tiger Shere Khan returns, Mowgli must leave behind the world he knows and leave the jungle for the human world. Along the way, he bonds with the responsible panther Bagheera, befriends the carefree bear Baloo, and encounters the slithering snake Kaa.
As with every other remake, Disney had to strike the perfect balance between staying true to the original story to keep
from angering old fans and renewing a story that’s already been told to keep it interesting. They managed to do that pretty well.
As far as accuracy to the 1967 version, they kept the names and personalities of their classic characters. Of course, they had to modify the interactions between the characters to add drama.
Regarding changes to the characters, they gave a character arc to a few of the main animals. As the characters grew, it made them more likable and interesting to watch. Baloo and Bagheera specifically grew throughout the duration of the film. Baloo started off as unlikable, and Bagheera was stuck in a narrow mind set.
Mowgli was also quite similar to his original persona. He complained a lot, and he was reluctant to leave the jungle.
Mowgli has a bigger personality this time. He was less of a passive protagonist. He was a natural engineer, solving the problems that the jungle kept throwing at him. Instead of letting things happen to him and just going with the flow, he was a resourceful character integral to the plot line.
Mowgli had a backstory that explained his origins. Although, the way it was delivered felt like just a bunch of long exposition, but it was nice to know more about the protagonist.
They didn’t include all of the songs from the original, which makes sense because most of them were pretty unremarkable.
Kaa’s song “Trust in Me,” King Louis’s song “I Wanna Be Like You,” and Baloo’s song “The Bare Necessities” made it though.
“Trust in Me” and “The Bare Necessities” felt natural in the context of the movie. It didn’t feel out of place or forced. “Trust in Me” felt like a lullaby, and “The Bare Necessities” felt like a couple of friends bonding instead of a random musical number.
“I Wanna Be Like You”, on the other hand, felt totally out of left field. The audience is supposed to be afraid of King Louis so when he starts singing for the sake of singing, it doesn’t feel natural.
The action, on the other hand, was well- integrated. There were a few fight scenes that had the audience on the edge of their seats. The thrilling music, intimidating tiger, and the eerie backdrop contributed to a more intense atmosphere.
It was more similar to “The Lion King” than “The Jungle Book” in the sense that it contained some high stakes fights, but there were no childhood-ruining deaths like Mufasa’s. Perhaps it made the movie less child friendly, but the fighting was scattered throughout and not tense enough to scar a six-year-old.
As far as reboots go, especially with Disney’s track record of terrible sequels, “The Jungle Book” was a well-balanced movie, kept the audience engaged, and was an overall pleasant surprise.