Cinema Cindy Reviews ‘The Jungle Book’

By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
Los Alamos

“The Jungle Book” has come back to the movie screen this year thanks to Disney, Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and live “motion-capture” technique. For those of us who remember the animated 1967 Disney movie, this version differs: the same “cute factor”, a couple of the original 1967 songs, but a far more exciting storyline. Thanks to CGI and Motion-capture, it is definitely well worth seeing in 3-D.

Movie poster. Courtesy Reel Deal Theater

This Jungle Book movie is based on the three stories about a jungle boy named Mowgli, which are found in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 anthology The Jungle Book. In Kipling’s first story, Mowgli is abandoned as a toddler in the jungle in India, discovered by Bagheera, the black panther, and taken by Bagheera to be raised by a pack of wolves. In the second story, Kaa the python appears; Mowgli is abducted by monkeys, causing Bagheera, Kaa and Baloo the sloth bear to rescue him. In the third story Mowgli must fight Shere Khan, the tiger.

This new film includes more details from these bits of Mowgli’s story in Kipling’s book, making this film’s story more adventurous and dangerous than the 1967 cartoon version on which it is based. As a result, the film is rated PG, rather than G due to “some sequences of scary action and peril.” Other than those sequences, the film is entertaining for all age groups, having cute and funny creatures who talk, an engaging story of a “man-child” discovering what he’s good at (what humans can do that the other animals can’t), and fabulous computer generated animal characters who move exactly like live animals do.

It turns out that the very convincing CGI animals were created with motion-capture technology (the same as The Hobbit series used for filming the character Gollum). Puppeteers from the Jim Henson Company were filmed using elaborate, life-sized puppets to act alongside the young Neel Sethi, the real boy who plays Mowgli. The animal characters are voiced by several familiar actors: Ben Kingsley is a seriously protective Bagheera; Bill Murray is a wonderful Baloo; Idris Elba is the menacing Shere Khan; Scarlett Johansson has a short bit as Kaa the python; Christopher Walken is King Louie (who appears in this film as a gigantopithecus, an ancestor of the orangutan whose range is believed to have included parts of India). Ikki the Porcupine, was voiced by comedian Garry Shandling, making this his final film before he died of a heart attack last year. 

In this Jungle Book, the animals use The Law of the Jungle to maintain peace. Each species of creature behaves exactly as we would expect. The visual effect of the film is quite beautiful. Certain of the creatures make us laugh and smile at their comical antics. At the end, stay just long enough into the closing credits to enjoy the 3-D animation effects—they are quite entertaining!

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