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 Bagheera, Christopher Walken as the ginormous King Louie,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 is better as a whole. In fact, there were a lot of things I felt that Favreau improved upon compared to the original. Sure the technology has progressed greatly, but it’s the story I want to focus on more here- where I feel Favreau'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 the way the scenes were shot that makes you feel like you are actually in the jungle with these characters. When Mowgli leaves Peace Rock, he travels all over the jungle. He also comes close to being eaten by a snake, gets stolen away by some of the monkeys while being taken to the Cold Lairs, and of course outruns the grasp of Shere Khan.
The sheer volume of the places that Mowgli visits and escapes from gives us a sense that this jungle is HUGE. I never felt that way when watching the 1967 version. It seemed a little close-quartered to me for my taste.
A great example of the scope in this movie is when the monkeys grab Mowgli and take him all the way to King Louie’s lair. Baloo and Bagherra give chase to try and retrieve Mowgli back from the apes, or as the film calls them, the “Bandar-log.” The Bandar-log toss him over many trees, across a few rivers, and eventually up on a VERY steep cliff. The sequence gave us a sense of realism, as the chase seemed to cover a vast expanse of the jungle. I thought Favreau did a very good job of conveying 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 focused on 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 lines in the movie.
Favreau has done a tremendous job with this wolf pack making us truly believe that this is the family that Mowgli grew up with. We even see Mowgli interacting with the cubs from time to time, and them learning from each other. I felt that the original film glossed over this important family element way too quickly whereas Favreau has given this element more leverage and weight.
#3. The Elephant Herd
It came as no surprise that there wasn't 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 was spot on. It felt realistic, and most importantly, it fit the narrative well. They definitely weren’t used for comedic relief purposes. When we first see them, Bagherra tells Mowgli to bow to them. He mentions that they are of grave importance to this land and Mowgli should pay his respects when he sees them.
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 respects to the elephants and to bow before them every time. Mowgli uses the rope he made of vines 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.
#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.
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 terrifying Bengal tiger. However, this movie gives the character more depth, 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 of 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 movie, but we also see Bagheera 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 Bagheera 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 outthinks 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!