Cathie and I saw Disney’s, The Jungle Book, in 3D at the matinee last Friday. We see few new films, and don’t often spend up for 3D, but based on a review in World Magazine and the previews we’d viewed online I was glad to both see it and do so with the extra dimension.
I can enjoy even a mediocre movie if the visuals are entrancing, if they pull you in. And visually I don’t know of anything to compare to this film. The integration of live action and computer graphics is so seamless that there’s no sense of being able to lift the curtain and see the man behind the screen pulling the strings. On top of that, the movie is just flat out amazing in both characters and settings. Hard to imagine a more fitting Mogli than young master Neel Sethi, or a better voice for King Louie than Christopher Walken. Shere Khan is truly menacing as evil on four feet and Indris Elba’s voice for the tortured, twisted face and persona is spot on.
I found Bill Murray’s voice for Baloo too Bill Murrayish personally, though I know many others thought it a genius combination. (His voice is so connected to his own droll,
downplayed persona that I couldn’t get past Bill to Baloo.)
Beyond the visuals and funny characterizations I also really appreciated the message the work seeemed to be communicating. ( I say “seemed” because “messages” are often as much in the eye of the beholder as the eye of the creator. I’m not sure what director Jon Favreau had in mind but here’s my take…..)
The opening scenes show Mogli trying and failing to be a wolf, because, as Bagheera points out, he’s not a wolf. Wow! You can’t run like a wolf, because you’re NOT a wolf! Seems obvious but in our “I am what I say I am” culture something even that obvious isn’t always obvious.
The story really turns around the uniqueness of Mowgli among the animals of the jungle because he’s a man cub and not a wolf or any other of the jungle creatures.
His unique man-qualities are initially seen as handicaps and his human ability to manipulate elements of his environment are derided as gimmicks to forsake. But as the film advances toward it’s climax Bagheera wisely, and finally, advises Mowgli to use his human strengths, fighting the evil tiger as a man, and not as a creature of the forest.
I found the climax gripping and both Cathie and I grimaced and flinched as Shere Khan chased Mowgli through the forest flames. His end, no surprise, was fitting.
And I loved the movie’s end too. Spoiler: In the 1967 version, Mogli returns “where he belongs”, to the man village and to those who are just like him. But not so in this version. Mogli remains in the forest, enjoying an afternoon rest with his forest friends.
This movie celebrates diversity and unity, and not one at the expense of the other. A boy, or a wolf, is what it is by birth, nature and God. The unique strengths of each form of life are to be recognized, celebrated and accepted in the larger, diverse group. That’s the message in Genesis and the creation account of Adam and Eve as male and female; similar but different, each very good, as they were created. The Law of the Jungle, see below, affirms the reciprocal truth that the strength of a group is in the individuality of it’s members, and conversely, the strength of the individual is found in the diverse whole.
This movie also celebrates law, that there are immovable, unchangeable forces that rule our lives and that we fail to recognize, or break, to our own harm.
Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
-Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book
Not only is “the Law of the Jungle” repeated through the movie, but we see it on display in the destruction of Shere Khan. The jungle creatures and Mowgli survive and win against the evil tiger because they band together, they operate within the Law of the Jungle.
Whether you walk away thinking of the beauty of diversity with unity or the benevolent laws God has formed into our world, this movie will at any rate provide a remarkable trip through the wilds of Kipling’s and Disney’s imaginative and gripping lens. I highly recommend a walk through this jungle.