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MouthShut Score

85%
3.15 

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Verified Member MouthShut Verified Member  
Bangalore India
"Jungle Book" with a realistic touch!
Dec 23, 2018 02:46 AM 1631 Views
(Updated Dec 23, 2018 06:28 PM)

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I had a gut feeling about this film being good and I think it turned out to be so. After the haphazard execution of the 2016 adaptation, where I thought it was confused about whether it wanted to take itself seriously or as a kid's animated film, this one conforms to most laws except a select few debatable topics, while giving us a very realistic and entertaining take on a possible version of "The Jungle Book".


THE MAIN CAST:


Christian Bale. aka Bagheera


Cate Blanchett. aka Kaa


Benedict Cumberbatch. aka Shere Khan


Baloo. Andy Serkis


Rohan Chand. Mowgli


Peter Mullan. aka Akela


THE ESSENTIAL PLOT


Shere Khan, the tiger, has broken the law of the jungle by killing humans and their cattle thus bringing the wrath of humans upon animals in general. In such a stray incident, a baby boy aka Mowgli is left stranded atop a tree. A black panther named Bagheera finds this boy and leaves him in the care of a wolf pack, who adventurously decide to accept him.


As time goes on, Mowgli finds it hard to keep up with the runs of the wolf pack, in his earnest efforts to prove himself a true wolf. Being a human, he is often drawn to the man village. But his human instincts and intelligence often lead him to come up with simpler solutions where brawn fails. Bagheera and Baloo, the bear advise him regarding ways he can cope with the rigours of his life. Baloo encourages Mowgli to be creative in his ways and Bagheera puts him up against realistic scenarios he must find solutions to.


As time passes, Shere Khan pays the wolves a visit, asking them to release the man cub. They blame him for the animosity of humans and he blames them for keeping the very "human" as part of their pack who hunted them, as a generalization. Shere Khan is overwhelmed by them on that occasion, but vows to return later. Akela, the wolf pack leader warns Mowgli that he must learn to race with the wolves as their protection would only hold if he could keep up with their pace. Mowgli puts in concerted efforts to do so, putting his human brain to good use where his brawn is no match for the wolves, but Bagheera after failing several times, manages to stop him at the final phase of such a test race where the wolves race to their destination.


Mowgli is angered by this and wanders off, when he is suddenly kidnapped by the apes and brought to some cave. Shere Khan makes a chance appearance and browbeats the apes with his intentions. Shere Khan's lust for Mowgli's blood is thwarted by the appearance of Bagheera and Baloo, but even they are no match for the numerous apes that follow Shere Khan. Kaa, a huge python suddenly makes an appearance to keep Shere Khan and the apes at bay. She believes Mowgli is special being how he is, and may one day lead the jungle out of its misery.


Meanwhile, Akela, out on one of his hunts, fails to make a kill on one occasion and by wolf law is entitled to be challenged. Shere Khan incites other wolves to do so. Mowgli, having observed the power of "fire" on a stray occasion, uses the same to drive away Shere Khan who reluctantly retreats. But on doing so, Mowgli has broken a jungle law by using human tools on animals.


He reluctantly takes his leave and is captured in a cage by humans of the village, in a chance encounter. He's paid a visit initially by Bagheera, who mentions Mowgli must stay there with the humans, as he has failed at training him to be a wolf. He learns of the ways of humans and also befriends a Jim Corbettesque hunter who has a good strike rate when hunting, brought by the villagers to kill Shere Khan. Mowgli realises the hunter has bagged part of a tusk which belonged to an elephant who once rescued him previously and also an albino wolf friend's head and develops a sort of dual love-hate feeling towards the hunter.


Even when amongst his own kind, Mowgli does not lose feelings for the animals he has been raised with and vows to do right by the elephant that saved him, the wolf pack who later comes begging for help and rid the villagers and the jungle of the "Shere Khan menace". But to do so, he also intends to put his new acquaintance, the hunter, to good use.


Mowgli must play his cards wisely and his execution doesn't go fully according to plan with some collateral damage and chance mishaps. But the film somehow culminates in an ending which would satisfy most.


THINGS TO NOTE:


PERFORMANCES: The performances by the main characters listed above is quite good, with Mowgli's performance standing out most, I think. His transformations are timely and rightly due throughout the film.


Benedict's performance as Shere Khan is also pretty good. It is closer to the potent, but subtle menace that he was in 1967's Disney adaptation rather than the "absolutely dismissive" one of 2016 film. This may be the best version.


Bagheera is a responsible black panther, as he is, in all versions of the "Jungle Book", I've seen so far. Christian Bale's batmanesque demeanor sometimes, suits him well.


Baloo, is the least playful version of him, I've seen here. But he is very eager to help Mowgli be as creative as possible.


Mowgli's immediate wolf kin are also played well by respective actors and actresses.


SPECIAL EFFECTS: The animals here are CGI while the humans are clearly not. For a live action film, they've done well and I've seen some before. I do not think it is disappointing in this regard. It is apt, for the type of film.


TONE & INTENT: This is a live action film with some animation, which mostly wants to take itself seriously and be as realistic as possible, being a film of this genre. It is still fathomable as a family film but I'm pretty sure it's not aimed at all kids of all age groups. Bit of an adult family film of sorts.


The animals are characterized as anthropomorphic. Only if they are relatable with human traits, can they be portrayed as interacting with Mowgli. Otherwise it would be difficult. I think it is done well here.


STORY & DIRECTION: The story is loosely based on the original book and also loosely based on the previous film adaptations. The direction is pretty good with the material Andy Serkis had, I think. The pace of the film is fast, in general. The parts included don't feel redundant or unnecessary in my opinion.


SCORING: The scoring of specific parts was quite adequate to the needs of the film. But most scenes were driven by the flow of events rather than the scoring. It was a fine balance, as and when required.


CONSISTENCY WITH REALITY: I think a number of things were done to make it an enjoyable balance of reality and entertainment from a live action animation film.


1] Shere Khan is shown with a limp, which gives it good reason to be a man-killer or a cattle killer. He does not necessarily obsess over 1 human being like in previous films, but loathes Mowgli because he is a "human".


2] An elephant is believed to have good memory and incidents of revenge are not unheard of. That's what happens here. Also, elephant confronting tigers is also not unheard of.


3] Monkeys are capable of hurting some very dangerous animals in reality. Them attacking Bagheera and Baloo are not unbelievable.


4] Mowgli first learning why the fire could help him and then applying that knowledge was logically shown. Mowgli trying to use his mind to make up for his shortcomings in brawn are well fleshed out. Not really touched upon in previous adaptations.


5] Mowgli wanting to be a wolf rather than like Baloo as in the 1967 adaptation is a more logical expectation, as he grew up with wolves. Baloo also not being over eager about Mowgli being a bear is refreshing, this version being rooted closer to reality.


6] Characters like Bagheera, Baloo, the wolves not showing natural initiative to take on Shere Khan alone is more sensible.


7] Shere Khan's reaction to fire and his inability to do much climbing of trees is also more believable.


8] It does away with some unnecessary elephant parts from the 1967 film and unnecessary monkey parts from the previous films. More to the point, with its aim of being closer to reality.


SOMEWHAT DEBATABLE PARTS:


1] Male elephants do sometimes wander around in groups. So, believing that a male elephant would group up with some other males to exact its revenge is not entirely unbelievable. What is a bit debatable is the huge tusks the male elephants had, considering the setting is in India. All male elephants tend not to have such big tusks in Asia. But not sure it can be called inaccurate. The tusks are even less common in Sri Lanka.


2] Kaa, being a huge enough python to intimidate Shere Khan is a bit less relatable. But certainly not impossible. India is home to Reticulated and Burmese pythons, in addition to Rock pythons. A Reticulated python is the largest snake in the world, with one being recorded being 49 ft. long in 2004 in Indonesia. Burmese pythons tend to be big too.


The only potential sore point being Kipling's story is based in Seoni jungles of Madhya Pradesh and the larger pythons I mentioned are more prominent in East / North-East India, where tigers are also a bit smaller. But there's no evidence that the larger python species were never found in other parts of India and the story is set in 1800s, when animals used to be larger and more prolific.


3] In reality, monkeys would warn against tigers. Hyenas would also keep their distance. If a tiger is king of the jungle, it having its way with these animals, if it wants to, is not outside the realm of possibility.


4] Why a black panther and a bear would be so close to a wolf pack is beyond me. In reality, a leopard would waste no time to kill stray wolves. But Bagheera here has a different background. Perhaps, that somehow made him different. A bear would be very shy w.r.t. other species normally. But Bagheera & Baloo working together has always been the core of all "Jungle Book" stories. Probably, there's some unknown history there too.


5] Baloo, is shown as some kind of black bear. Not a brown bear. So, that's more believable, considering its habitat. But although black, it didn't resemble a sloth bear. Not sure what to make of that w.r.t. the habitat.


Being a true animal lover and a lover of the original animated 1967 film, I must say this was the best balance yet between an animated kid's film and a realistic "Jungle Book" story. Not an easy thing to achieve. The best thing is that even most of the debatable parts, which itself are lesser in number, have possible explanations, unlike its predecessor which had some glaring mistakes w.r.t reality. In any case, I doubt either of the film adaptations were supposed to be completely true to the book as most were not. All in all, a pretty satisfying watch. I would give it close to a 8.5 out of 10.


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