Life in Writing
This movie got a lot of love from critics as well as from my friends who saw it before me. Combine that with the fact that I loved the cartoon version as a kid, and I ended up going into The Jungle Book with pretty high expectations. That's usually a bad mindset to have when going into a movie, as I typically end up walking away disappointed. But I'm happy to say that in the case of The Jungle Book, this movie was everything I wanted it to be. The action was cool without being too scary for kids, and the visual effects looked great. However, in this post I won't be discussing the action, effects, or acting (although if you want to discuss that in the comments feel free), here I'll be talking about the story of the movie. So without further ado, here's what detracted the most from the story, and here's what its strongest point was.
Biggest Problem: Inconsistency for nostalgia's sake
There's a scene in this movie where Mowgli meets the giant orangutan king of the monkeys, Louis. Louis, voiced by Christopher Walken, starts off talking to Mowgli about how they could rule the jungle if Mowgli will show him how to make fire. During this talk, a beat slowly starts up in the background and before you know it Louis is singing the song, "I Wanna Be Like You" from the original Jungle Book animated movie. As a viewer and lover of the original film, I'm actually quite glad this song made it into the movie. It was fun to hear and brought back some great childhood memories for me, but it wasn't consistent with the rest of the film. This movie is not a musical like the cartoon was. There are no other characters in the film that sing their conversations. Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, does sing the song "Bare Necessities," but when he sings it, it's not a conversation, it's just a song he happens to like and teaches to Mowgli while they try to get some honey, King Louis on the other hand is singing this song in an attempt to converse musically with Mowgli. Once again, as a very nostalgic person who loved the original, I'm glad this scene was in here, but as a writer, the choice to make King Louis sing his conversation with Mowgli is really pretty odd.
Biggest Success: Simple and believable characters
Honestly, I had a hard time choosing just one aspect where this film succeeded as its best point. The foreshadowing and dialogue were most certainly honorable mentions, but I feel like the area where the writing of this movie really triumphs is in its simplicity. It never gets hung up on things like discovering that Shere Khan actually wanted to kill Mowgli because it would give him super powers that would allow him to conquer the entire world and also fly and build giant robots with his mind. Things like that have their place in other stories, but this movie actively shuns complex motives, instead focusing on the very most simple desires of each character. Shere Kahn hates men and wants to kill Mowgli. Pure and simple. Mowgli doesn't want to die, nor does he want his wolf family to die so he leaves for the man village. This motive is uncomplicated, not even slightly convoluted. As the story progresses, the plot complicates a little by the fact that Mowgli doesn't want to leave the jungle, so he tries to find a way to stay without threatening his family, but even this is a simple, and easily understood motive. Every character in this story has a clear motive for every action they take and that simplicity makes the story work on every level.
Overall, this movie is great and I would highly recommend it to anybody with children, or to anybody that just wants to watch a good movie with a good story.
IF you liked this review, check out some of my other movie reviews:
Batman V Superman
10 Cloverfield Lane
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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