The Film (5/5)
Disney has really gone all in at this point with the live action remakes of its best known animated properties. Normally, remakes bother me, but Disney have been doing quite interesting things with their newest versions of established classics. Kenneth Branagh did an an exceptional job with his classic Hollywood take on Cinderella last year, and now Jon Favreau brings a dark and surreal vision to the Jungle Book.
The Jungle Book is the third attempt by Disney to do justice to Rudyard Kipling's literary work. The first and most well known is the 1960's animated version that many of us grew up watching. As an adaptation of Kipling, it was far from perfect, but it was strongly entertaining and retains the ability to do so through to today. That film has quite solid animation, and a very loose pacing perfect for a young child to relax to. Also, the songs Disney pushed into the film were memorable. The 2nd version in 1994, was not exactly memorable. I saw it once on TV, and remember it follows an older Mowgli, and it felt like TV was the appropriate venue for it.
Favreau's attempt at the Jungle Book is a marvelous work that strikes a strong balance between children's entertainment and something darker. It reminds me strongly of 80's family cinema like the Dark Crystal and Time Bandits where the audience was children, but they weren't spoken down to, and there was an element of danger in the stories being told.
Faveau's Jungle Book is one of the most visually delightful films to come out this year. I am normally one to crack on CGI, but it is used to well here to create a dark-surrealist jungle environment for our characters to dwell in that I couldn't help be sucked into the world created here. The performances here are fantastic. Neel Sethi as Mowgli balances a semi-serious tone with a sense of awe and curiosity that is just perfect. We also get striking vocal performances from the late Garry Shandling, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray and more that are absolutely pitch perfect for the roles they are playing.
The Jungle Book tells the story of young Mowgli (Neel Sethi), who has been raised in the jungle by a wolf pack from a very early age. Now, the fierce tiger Shere Khan has returned to the part of the jungle where his pack lives, and demands the life of the boy. They have to smuggle him out through the deep of the jungle, and into a human village so he can survive.
Disney presents The Jungle Book in a quite solid 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks quite fantastic. The Blu-ray has lush color reproduction, excellent fine detail, accurate flesh tones, and solid blacks. The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track in English. The track is quite solid with dialogue and score coming through nicely. I did not detct any issues.
The disc kicks off with a commentary by director Jon Favreau. We also get a look at how the film was re-imagined, a piece called I Am Mowgli that looks through the eyes of actor Neel Sethi, and a piece on the making of the King Louie sequence.
I don't think any version of the Jungle Book will ever take away the iconic status of the original Disney animated version. However, Jon Favreau's re-imagining is the best adaptation of the Kipling work we've gotten and an all around amazing film. The Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing, and has a decent slate of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.