I will be getting into spoiler territory for this movie just to give everyone a heads up. Proceed with caution and enjoy!
Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is breathtakingly beautiful to watch. I recently had a chance to check out his film and I have to say it’s probably the most visually stunning film I have EVER seen. The visuals are spectacular. The only thing that is real in the entire film is actor Neel Sethi who plays the man-cub named Mowgli.
Favreau has also selected an impressive voice-over cast featuring the likes of Ben Kingsley as the panther named Bagherra, Christopher Walken as the ginormous King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as the seductive snake Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o as the wolf pack’s mother Raksha, the wolf pack leader named Akela voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, Idris Elba as the menacing tiger Shere Khan, and of course Bill Murray as the loveable and goofy bear named Baloo.
The film was absolutely incredible. As much as I loved the 1967 Walt Disney animated feature, this film felt better as a whole. In fact, there were a lot of things I felt that Favreau improved upon when compared to the original. Sure the technology has improved mightily but it’s the story I want to focus on more here where I feel 2016’s The Jungle Book really thrived. Without further adieu, here are “5 Ways Favreau’s The Jungle Book Surpasses the Original 1967 Animated Feature.”
#1. The Scope of the Entire Film
This film feels MASSIVE. As I touched on earlier, the visuals are spectacular but that’s an understatement. Not only does everything look great but it’s the way the scenes were shot that make you feel like you are actually in the jungle with these characters. When Mowgli leaves Peace Rock he then travels all over the jungle including almost getting trampled on by some water buffalos near the grasslands. He also came close to being eaten by a snake, stolen away by some of the monkey’s while being taken to the Cold Lairs, and of course outrunning the grasp of Shere Khan.
All of these places Mowgli visits and escapes from gives us that sense of scope that this jungle is HUGE. I never felt that when watching the 1967 version. It seemed a little close quartered to me as if everything took place in someone’s backyard. A great example of scope in this movie is when the monkey’s grab Mowgli and take him all the way to King Louie’s lair. That whole scene lasted a few minutes where Baloo and Bagherra gave chase to try and retrieve Mowgli back from the apes or as the film calls them the “Bandar-log.” The Bandar-log tossed him over many tree’s, across a few rivers, and eventually up a VERY steep cliff. This gave us a sense of realism as everything appears far away from everywhere else. I thought Favreau did a very good job of this in his film.
#2. More Screen Time for the Wolf Pack
Another part of this film that I really enjoyed was that the movie really spent a lot of time with the relationship between the wolves and Mowgli. He was basically their own wolf cub and Raksha is his adopted wolf mother. “Never forget this. You’re mine, mine to me. No matter where you go or what they may call you, you will always be my son” says Raksha in one of the most heartfelt dialogue in the movie.
Could Favreau have borrowed this line from ‘Tarzan?’
I have to believe that Favreau may have “borrowed” this line from another fan favorite Disney film that also takes place in the jungle. That feature was the 1999 film Tarzan. In that movie, Tarzan’s adopted gorilla mother Kala shows him where she found him. The picture Tarzan finds enabled him to understand that he had human parents. He then comes out of the treehouse in human clothes, hugs Kala and says, “No matter where I go, you will always be my mother.” She responds with, “And you will always be in my heart.”
Favreau has done a tremendous job with this wolf pack making us believe that this is the family that Mowgli grew up with. We even see Mowgli interacting with the cubs from time to time learning from each other. I felt that the original film glossed over this important family element way too quickly in just the first few minutes of the movie whereas Favreau has given this element more leverage and weight.
#3. The Elephant Herd
No way was there going to be an army of talking elephants specifically one named Colonel Hathi. And you know what? There didn’t need to be. What they did with these elephants for these scenes was spot on. They definitely weren’t used for comedic relief purposes. When we first see them, Bagherra tells Mowgli to bow to them as they are traversing through the forest. He mentions that they are of grave importance to this land and should be payed their respects when seen.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie involves Mowgli saving the baby elephant out of a mud pit. At first they would not let Mowgli go near the baby, but Mowgli remembered what Bagherra said to him about paying respect to the elephants and to bow before them every time. Mowgli uses the tools he made to retrieve Baloo’s honey and is able to latch them onto the other elephants to pull the baby elephant out of the mud pit. This scene actually makes a difference later in the film when the elephants confront Mowgli after defeating Shere Khan in a long fought battle. Mowgli again bows down to the elephants only this time he is rewarded as a king. A scene shortly after shows Mowgli riding on top of the baby elephant giving us an indication that he is the King of the Jungle.
A Scene From ‘Jungle Book’ is similar to Peter Jackson’s ‘The Return of the King’
I couldn’t help but think that that scene reminded me of the ending to Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King from his Lord of the Rings trilogy. In that one scene, we see the hobbits bow down to the King of Gondor at his coronation. Realizing this, Aragorn walks over to them and says, “My friends, you bow to no one.”
These two scenes from The Jungle Book and The Return of the King feel reminiscent of each other. At least that was the connection I noticed from both films. The higher power is now bowing down or serving the one’s who should be crowned king. The elephants from The Jungle Book feel that way towards Mowgli as a thanks for saving their young elephant.
#4. Shere Khan’s Menacing Presence
This Shere Khan voiced by the great Idris Elba was absolutely terrifying. His arrival felt like an old western film when the evil outlaw comes in to take out the new sheriff in town. This Shere Khan also had WAY more screen time and scenes in this film than the 1967 original had. After re-watching that movie, I noticed he was only in three scenes in the entire movie. Yes, three scenes. Although I have to say his introduction was pretty humorous.
His first scene shows us him trying to hunt down a deer while hiding in the tall grass. However unfortunately for him, Colonel Hathi’s elephant brigade was making their rounds and scared the deer away. Shere Khan was also seen in a meeting with Kaa who may or may not have been hiding the man-cub in his coils. And of course the final scene where he fights Baloo and the buzzards where he is eventually scared off when Mowgli attaches a branch with fire blazing on his tail. That’s pretty much all we see of him however we hear of him throughout most of the movie but don’t get to see him until midway into the film.
This take of The Jungle Book on the other hand puts him front and center near the beginning of the movie. We immediately feel terror run through our veins as he lectures that man is the enemy and they all must be destroyed including Mowgli who lives among the wolf pack.
This film also does a better job of giving us reasons WHY Shere Khan wants to kill Mowgli. Only through exposition in the original film are we told any backstory on the villain of the terrifying Bengal tiger. However, this movie gives us more depth on the character showing us that he was the one who killed Mowgli’s parents. He also informs all animals living in the jungle that man is forbidden and that man is the bearer of the “red flower” (fire) and will one day cause devastation to their jungle. Favreau could not have given us a better Shere Khan than he did in this film.
#5. All the Animals Take Part in the Final Fight
The ending of this film is definitely one of the highlights. Not only do we see Baloo and Mowgli face off against Shere Khan just like in the original, but we also see Bagherra take on the Bengal Tiger not once but twice along with the ENTIRE wolf pack. Shortly after Mowgli extinguishes the flaming torch he once held, the animals gather together to help fight off Shere Khan. Unfortunately not all are successful but they do give him a run for his money. Baloo especially gives him a good fight along with Bagherra but he takes out the rest of the wolves pretty easily.
The final fight with Mowgli and Shere Khan is gut wrenching. Knowing Shere Khan is afraid of fire, Mowgli lures him into the forest that caught fire. He eventually out thinks him when he attracts Shere Khan to crawl out on the edge of a fragile tree branch. The branch eventually snaps leaving Shere Khan to fall to his death in a pit of fire. Mowgli safely swings over to a different tree avoiding any encounter with the fire.
This scene proved to be a big improvement on the finale of the original film. It was definitely more enjoyable than watching a bunch of buzzards distract Shere Khan while Mowgli ties a branch with fire on his tail. This made for a more satisfying finale and conclusion to Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book.
So those were five ways that I thought were major improvements over the original. Were there any scenes in the film you thought were better in this movie? Or were there scenes you enjoyed more from the 1967 classic? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below and don’t forget to share!