From the time I saw the trailer I thought: “Another Jungle book movie?”. Admit it there have been many, over the course of my lifetime the thing had been made and remade at least 3 times, as if the film makers had been doing an odd experiment trying to revamp the original and never quite getting there, never recreating the vibe of the original.
So when I saw the trailer for this one, I was a bit skeptical. As announcements were made about the cast, I was even more skeptical. Then I saw an interview with the star and then the trailer and then I was all: “Hey this might actually do what the others failed to do.” I even hummed Bear Necessities around the house for days when the group decided to go see it. I was hoping for…
…but you know with real life characters. I didn’t get it, but I’m not too mad. What I got was…
I must say this thing was well cast. There are some heavy hitters and none of them are heavy hitters because of a fluke. These folks were able to give us an evocative performance even behind the guise of these computer generated visages. Which too were some of the most visually satisfying animation I’ve seen. This film was stunning. I can’t say that enough.
The film as generally darker than the original cartoon was, in tone at least. It wasn’t in anyway light, not even when history dictated it should be. The Tiger more sinister, King Louis more evil, the wolves more noble, the snake inducing a deeper sense of spinal cringe, even Baloo has a sense of bad to him. Not evil bad or not very evil bad, but bad non the less.
This movie was also no musical. They kept exactly two of the songs from the original soundtrack, and made them..I guess you could call it modern. As much as me and the lady two rows down tried to sing along to the songs we knew by heart, we failed miserably. Sorry guy in the row between us. I’m guessing he was young enough to not have been part of the experience back then, so he didn’t really get our plight. Not that the soundtrack wasn’t great, there was some great scores, adapted from the original songs. I would love to get it on CD if those things still exist. Lovely, not what we hoped for, but lovely.
I think I would have stated that this movie was considerably darker than the original. Yes it’s a Disney film so there was no drugs, sex and rock and role. But there were some pretty dark moments. Mr. Elba did an inspired job, I love him, I loved to hate him here for the things the character did, but I love him. There were some themes portrayed here that I think would have felt right at home in Animal Farm. If they achieved one thing, it was to make this movie more cerebral, adding history and culture and a social and political interplay that the other versions missed. I am both happy and dismayed, because while the movie grew with me, but my kids, such as with most other things, will ever know the feeling that I had as a kid. Suffice it to say there were some changes away from the original plot, but again this made the thing more adult and thus more satisfying for the adult viewer.
The changes however, set the stage for what I hope to be the sequel. It’s not the end I expected, but it was a powerful and stirring end.
I liked this movie. My inner child is pouting in a corner of my brain as I type this, but my adult self is OK with the revamp. Happy with the movie in general and eagerly awaiting what they do next. I’m a little sad that I will have to wait ’til life proofs my kids a little more for them to really understand it, but we’ll always have the original.
Recommendation: Go see it, but do so with new eyes and not the expectations of your childhood hindsight.
Apologies: A big I’m sorry to the dude one row down and to my right. My theater etiquette really slipped on this one, what with the singing and the chortling in those scenes. I promise you will never have to give me the stink eye ever again.