The Jungle Book online movie review - Almost gets an A from me... buuuuut. (SPOILERS!!)
The imagery, as expected, was beautifully done. But that's to be anticipated these days when a studio has hundreds of millions to spend on a film.
What I look at is story and acting, and this movie came close to being 'great', but stumbled in a few places where it really shouldn't have.
The good: 1. Mowgli. He wasn't the stubborn little idiot of the 1967 film with whom, let's all admit it... we were rooting for Kaa. ;D In this picture he's much more sensible and pragmatic about his circumstances, while still exhibiting enough 'childlike' traits to be believable. His inventiveness is a little over-the-top, but not impossible if he'd been playing his 'tricks' for several years. A creative mind with the dangers and hardships of the jungle surrounding him might become very innovative indeed with simple tools after basic investigation.
2. Bagheerah and Baloo, I was quite pleased with the new incarnations, with just a few little factual foibles that I doubt many save me, with my intense attention to detail, would have noticed.
3. The wolves. Much more characterization with them and the difficulties of their decision were very believably put together.
4. The ending. Thank god Mowgli didn't just turn into a drooling sap at the sight of a village girl. I always disliked that about the ending of the 1967 film. Not only was it not at all like the Kipling version, it also felt totally unbelievable. No one instantly abandons the friends and family they have known all their lives the first instant they see a hot chick. Especially not as a child, when familial bonds dominate. This Mowgli, having fought such a fierce battle and made such powerful connections, would be even LESS likely to leave. Having him stay was the right choice.
The 'meh': 1. King Louie. I don't think they needed to make him into an extinct species of ape. Remember, this film is set around the 18th-19th centuries. People traveled and traded extensively around the world by that time. Is it so hard to think an orangutan might have been brought to India at a time, and escaped during a conflict (quite prevalent) after having seen the power of the Red Flower first-hand, then being accepted as King of the Bandar-log because of his greater size, intelligence (orangutans are very intelligent) and unique form, and the his story of escape from Man... all of which would mark him as something greater than the other monkeys so far as they knew? Also, the Mafioso New York accent and his sudden singing felt out of place in the rest of the film, and even in the scene itself didn't quite fit.
2. Shere Khan. He was a strong villain... clearly cruel and sadistic... but that's about it. He was a basic bully without even the charm or wit of the 67' Khan. There needed to be a bit more to him, something of a personality besides a blunt killing machine. The small scene with the wolf cubs began to give him just a touch of sinister cunning, but that was the only trace of what he could have evolved into. Mowgli and Khan were the primary protagonist and antagonist with very interconnected pasts! That Mowgli didn't even bring up the obvious contention that Khan was the one doing all the killing and forcing Mowgli to become like other Men to stop him was a bit less than I'd hoped. 3. The elephants. They were rather interesting in some respects, but I question why they couldn't speak, or didn't choose to, to the other animals and Mowgli. I completely get the idea that they were being treated as a force of creation by the other animals, but giving them a bit of individuality would have been nice in addition to the hint of mortality we and Bageerah saw when Mowgli aided them at the pit.
The disappointing 1. Kaa. The most disappointing part of the film. The character seemed to be here solely due to obligation. 'Her' part existed as a one-shot, fairly one-sided conflict and minor exposition dump... despite leaving everyone in my group agreeing with my contention that, from the story we're given, there is NO WAY Kaa could have known so much about Mowgli's past. That is an open plot hole, and everyone in my viewing group noticed it. The segment wasn't even needed to introduce Baloo, as some have suggested. Mowgli was unconscious/asleep on the log before coming across Kaa's tree. He could have simply bumped into Baloo right off the bat and nothing would have changed. Baloo could have claimed he saved the boy from drowning instead of from the snake, and the life debt plot point would have remained intact. Bageerah could then have told him, later on, where he found Mowgli and that Shere Khan had killed his father, thus granting the flashback history moment. Kaa served no purpose to the story, and that's quite a shame, as Kaa has always been one of the most interesting characters in the story... in either Kipling's original or the Disney version. His strange dynamic with the other creatures in the jungle warranted a much greater exploration, and I can only hope they do so in the sequel.
2. Shere Khan's death, acceptable but very cliché. Villains falling to their doom is really getting old in Disney films. We could watch Mowgli getting cut up by claws... was it too much to at least impale the total jerk of a tiger?
So, overall an improvement on all the previous versions, but just a little bit more work on those few aspects of the story I noted would have truly put it over the top and made it unassailable as the BEST POSSIBLE take on the Disney version of the story.