First Hit: An amazing, truly delightful and well crafted film – Kudos.
This film is a real treat. The personalities of the animals worked from every angle and aspect.
Loosely based and inspired by Richard Kipling’s book of the same name, this movie truly comes to life on the big screen. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is the boy, who is raised in the jungle by a wolf mother Raksha (voice by Lupita Nyong’o), the wolf pack and black panther Bagheera (voice by Ben Kingsley).
The wolf pack leader Akela (voice by Giancarlo Esposito) has accepted Mowgli and has the pack protect Mowgli from harm. Because he's being raised by wolves, the boy is trying to be a wolf and is discovering it is difficult. However, he does have magic (human) ways to creating things which Bagheera frowns upon.
The danger is that Shere Khan (voice by Idris Elba), a tiger, is out to kill Mowgli because the boy’s father burnt Shere Khan with the red flower (fire) when Mowgli was a baby and wants revenge. When Shere Khan kills Akela, the boy has to escape. Bagheera thinks the boy needs to return to mankind but on the way the boy gets lost and runs into Kaa (voice by Scarlett Johansson) a Python who wants to eat him. Just as this happens, he gets saved by Baloo (voice by Bill Murray) a honey eating brown bear.
Although the ending is predictable, the magic is in how this film gets there and in the way it is presented to the audience. This story is exquisitely shot and the attention to detail is extraordinary. The movement of the animals was so clearly researched that is seemed as though their animated bodies and Mowgli's real body were all in one world. It was perfect.
Sethi was wonderful as the young boy. My guess is that he did a lot of work to prepare for this role, especially because of the physical nature of it. His warmth and intelligence showed through in his character. Nyong’o's voice added a deep soulful feel to the mother wolf. Kingsley’s voice gave us a rich commanding panther that was filled with compassion. Elba’s voice for the tiger was perfectly intense, intimidating, and filled with fire. Johansson’s voice for the seductive Python was mesmerizing. Murray was both captivating and funny as the day saving bear. Christopher Walken’s voice (and singing) was scene stealing as King Louie (homage to Louie Armstrong whose voice was used on the 1967 version of this film) the Gigantopithecus Bornean orangutan and king of the monkey world. Walken was amazing. Justin Marks wrote a fantastic screen play from Kipling’s book. Jon Favreau did all his homework and made sure this film sets a new standard in animation. Additionally, his use of 3-D was spot on. It was an addition not a distraction. Bravo!
Overall: Disney shows it still has the chops to deliver the highest quality animation film having an engaging story while setting a new benchmark for all those who follow.