The Jungle Book will be the next addition to Walt Disney Pictures' growing list of live-action/CGI re-tellings of stories that it previously brought to life in animated movie form. This adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's source novel - as directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2) and written for the big screen by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) - uses the same approach as recent Mouse House films like Cinderella (2015), in that elements of its cartoon predecessor (released in 1967) have been carried over into this new version of the story.
Nonetheless, Favreau's take on the tale of Mowgli the Man-Cub (as portrayed by newcomer Neel Sethi) and his childhood in the jungles of India will certainly differ tonally from its animated musical/comedy predecessor - if the movie's first trailer (see above) is any indication, that is.
Favreau previously described his Jungle Book movie as being a family-friendly spin (featuring mythical overtones) on the hero's journey adventure narrative, and the trailer suggests the film will indeed be just that. The preview also paints Favreau's retelling as being fairly action-driven, highlighting such plot threads as Shere Khan's (voiced by Idris Elba) relentless hunt for Mowgli, and the untrustworthy jungle inhabitants that Mowgli crosses paths with on his adventures - ranging from the sly boa constrictor Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) to the domineering orangutan King Louie (Christopher Walken).
The other key aspect established in the Jungle Book trailer footage is that Favreau's movie feels big - not just in terms of how Sethi compares next to his massive CGI animal costars (Louie, in particular, is properly 'King Ape' sized in this film), but also the wild scenery and majestic backdrops partly crafted by cinematographer Bill Pope (the Matrix trilogy, Spider-Man 2&3). If nothing else, that suggests Jungle Book may be worth checking out in the largest format available, when it arrives; that will also make it easier to appreciate the photorealistic texture of the film's various non-humans.
Johansson's voice is briefly shown coming out of Kaa in the Jungle Book teaser, but moviegoers will have to wait for a future trailer to hear Ben Kingsley speak as Bagheera and/or Bill Murray's voice give Baloo some personality - though, the latter does get to whistle a few notes from "The Bare Necessities" at the teaser's conclusion. Reactions to the Jungle Book D23 Expo footage that featured more dialogue by the celebrity-heavy voice cast - a lineup that also counts Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) among its ranks - were positive, but we shall have to wait and see if the feeling is mutual for the general public.
Disney's recent live-action/CGI re-tellings have all been commercially successful thus far (with Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and Cinderella), but the critical/audience responses have been comparatively mixed. Cinderella, however, was overall much better received than either Alice or Maleficent were, so here's to hoping Favreau's Jungle Book keeps that upward trend going - and builds on the momentum that the director gained from his 2014 indie film, Chef.
The Jungle Book opens in U.S. theaters on April 15th, 2016.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures
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