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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Disney's Jungle Book Movie Review

I finally found time to go see the new live action Disney Jungle Book movie.
 It was brilliant. I loved how they brought the whole jungle to life. It had a slightly Bambi-esque feel to it at times. Even the bugs were there. The CGI animals had a wonderful look to them. Even though they were clearly CGI and not real animals to someone familiar with animals, it was possible to suspend your disbelief for long periods of time and see them as real.

The actor, Neel Sethi, was amazing. So much talent for such a young person (age 12). The voice acting was well done too. I'm glad they went with big name top quality voice actors (Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley, etc). It made the suspension of disbelief all the easier.

There were many liberties taken with Kipling's original story line. Though some of the same liberties had also been taken in the Disney's cartoon version. The movie's story line was not as true to the story line as the cartoon, but it was more ambitious and closer to the spirit of the books.

Spoilers Alert

I loved the inclusion of parts of the Law of the Jungle. Also the portrayal of elephants was so much better than in the cartoon. It had a feel slightly reminiscence of the Kipling's story Toomai of the Elephants, which is not part of the Jungle Books, but could have been. Though one thing I did miss was the redemptive part of Kaa's story line. There was never any friendship with the giant snake developed. I was fine with making her a female. Snakes don't really seem to have much gender differentiation, anyway.

I loved the fact that they made Raksha, Mowgli's mother, the new pack leader, but I missed the books' vicious mano-y-mano face-off between Raksha and Shere Khan in the den over Mowgli as a baby. I've always loved that part where the female goes totally bad-ass to protect a baby and the narrator says she wasn't known as “the demon” for nothing. It's a very primal maternal strength scene I always get a thrill reading. It one of my all time favorite scenes in literature. [It's right up there with Jean Val Jean's hand reaching down in the dark and lifting the child Cossette's bucket of water from the well in the woods that she can barely carry. And with Eowen facing off the Witch King in the Battle of Pelenor Fields to protect King Theoden's body. And with Sam carrying Frodo to the Cracks of Doom when Frodo can't walk any more.] They gave Raksha's challenge a nod in the movie, butshe was being backed up by the pack at the time and nobody seems to pay much attention to her when she challenged Shere Khan there.

My eleven year old son loved the movie. We had read Jungle Book I and II this winter [as well as these picture book versions shown here. The Troll Classic retold by Diane Ashachik, illustrated by Holly Hannon was painfully brief and stunted compared to the rich original.The Young Reader's Edition retold by G.C. Barrett, illustrated by Don Daily was far better, but neither compared to the wonderful poetic words of Kipling.] We were thrilled when we learned that the movie was coming out. He agreed that the liberties taken with the text were appropriate changes that made the story better adapted for the screen. Maybe they even improved the story for younger audiences who might be a little confused by the books' bitter sweet endings.

Some science questions that came up after the movie were:
My son wanted the names of some of the side characters, especially the cute little springhare like rodents. [I'm still researching if there are any populations ofspringhares, reportedly an African animal, in India.] He especially liked them and the armadillo like critter, the pangolin

I had a problem with Baloo's explanation of wanting Mowgli's help preparing for winter hibernation, a temperate and arctic region adaptation for some animals, when the story took place in a tropical jungle where there is no winter season. I was so glad when Bagheera called it a scam, I was preparing to get seriously annoyed. My son said, he hadn't caught that before hand.

My son wanted to know King Louie's species. I was surprised that they had him refer to himself as Gigantopithecus. There are fossils found in Asia of ancient hominids that were almost 10 ft tall that scientists have named Gigantopithecus Some think these hominids were most closely related to orangutans. The connection between King Louie and the fossils is a fun connection to make for people who know about the fossils, but the idea that King Louie would refer to himself as a Gigantopithecus is a little anachronistic and kicked me out. It also washed over the head of practically everyone. Most people don't know about the fossils and the ones that do are not likely to enjoy the way the knowledge was used. I'm their target audience for that joke line and I barely found it worth more than a smile. Though I imagine the movie makers found the justification for a giant orangutan necessary enough to put in the movie and the song for their own comfort. It was harmless, I suppose. Here's a link to a National Geographic article about the animals of this movie if you'd like to read more.

We found ourselves wanting to call our black cats Bagheera for a few days after the movie. Even though the boy cat's personality is more like Baloo's. The girl cat's personality is more like Bagheera, but her fur is tortoise shelled. I love this movie coming out, because it inspired my husband to read The Jungle Book for the first time, though I'd been telling him how great the books are for years. He said, “I'm amazed that I've gone all these years without reading this book. It's great.” Though he stopped at the end of first book. He hasn't seen the movie yet. So I may have some new material to add after he has.

What did you think of the movie, the story line and/or the science behind it?

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