Disney’s live action Jungle Book adaptation does justice to original


Kat Shambaugh

Disney’s The Jungle Book debuts to high ratings from critics as they retell the age-old story of a boy raised in the jungle. Based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, Disney first animated the movie in 1967.

Kat Shambaugh, Features editor

In the newest installment in its series of live-action remakes, Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book hit theaters on April 15, 2016. Mixing the beauty of Indian scenery with the industry’s best CGI animals, the film retells Rudyard Kipling’s beloved story of a boy raised by wolves in the jungle.

The panther Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) finds the young Mowgli (Neel Sethi), the movie’s resident mancub, in the jungle and sends him to grow up with a pack of wolves for his safety. When the dastardly tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) returns, Mowgli must make the journey back to the human village to escape the fiend. With the help of a bear named Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray), a snake named Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), and the ape king Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken), Mowgli learns to embrace his differences and protect his pack.

The new Jungle Book thrives on suspense; instead of the cheery, funny movie from the cartoon, the live-action employs drama and several jump scares. It fully utilizes its ability to explain more of the backstory, filling in plot holes from the original.

Even with the suspense, the movie manages to retain its funny side. Audiences can laugh along with Baloo and smile at Mowgli’s curiosity while following the adventure.

Unlike the original, the live-action lacks the constant singing. The film boasts a couple of music numbers — among them the famous “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” — but most of the movie utilizes speech. Certain characters, most notably Johansson’s Kaa, lose appeal without a significant song, but the movie moves so quickly the audience does not notice.

The film debuted to positive reviews and a 100% on critic website Rotten Tomatoes, all for good reason. The visuals stun and 3D adds to the effect. Every animal utilizes the most advanced CGI technology, allowing the audience to suspend its disbelief and appreciate the art. If anyone doubted Disney’s skill in animation before, they do not now.

QuoteKat Shambaugh

Furthermore, perfect casting brings the movie to a whole new level and every voice actor adds to the magic. Celebrity favorite Lupita Nyong’o lends her voice to Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother, Raksha, and adds a completely new level of maternal love and girl power to the character never explored in the cartoon. Kingsley’s Bagheera feels as iconic as the original and Murray seems like a perfect fit for the lovable, yet manipulative, Baloo. British actor Elba’s deep and sonorous voice characterizes Shere Khan as the villain archetype and strikes fear into the hearts of the audience. In true Disney style, each actor adds to the movie’s credibility and excitement.

In his screen debut, Sethi perfectly encapsulates the young Mowgli. He channels into the character the same joie de vivre that the cartoon possesses; his sassy comments, ingenuitive thinking, and ultimate love for the jungle shine through his characterization of the mancub. For an actor so new to the screen, Sethi’s performance foreshadows a successful Hollywood career.

Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book sets the stage for an impressive lineup of movies to come. By incorporating gorgeous visuals and top-notch casting, the film leaves the audience realizing that the strength of the wolf really does come from the pack.

The Chant’s grade: A+