The Jungle Book is a title that’s been on my radar since late fall. Working in a theater it’s difficult to not find yourself keeping up on the latest and greatest to come, but this was one of my highest-interest titles, having fond memories of the book and earlier movie from my childhood.
My hope for this film was for it to bring to life a childish whimsy of the forest that I remembered the story being about. However, what I saw was much more. A decently enthralling story about a young boy learning to find his place in life.
The film centers around the young Mowgli (a human boy who’s being raised by a pack of wolves after he was found by a panther in the jungle). But the jungle is thrown into disarray when a particularly dry season brings the water to an all time low. This enacts a pact between the animals of the jungle, bringing with it the introduction of a character that wants Mowgli out of the jungle. Through this conflict, Mowgli is forced to travel both physical and emotional distances.
Symbolism and Meaning
It is clear that the conflict that Mowgli has with “fitting in” is supposed to be representative of the problems of ostracizing individuals in modern society. We also can see another issue with society as a whole through the insistence from the pack that Mowgli relinquish the use of his human industry, or “tricks”, in order to become more wolf-like and conform to the pack’s norms.
The last major symbol in the film is the fire, one of humanity’s greatest tools. In the film the fire (referred to as the red flower, like a rose) is feared. When first introduced to it, Mowgli is told that it brings with it warmth, light, and destruction. However, when Mowgli finally does find himself forced by emotion to use fire, he becomes so absorbed by his rage that he allows the flame to engulf the woods, showing the depth to which man can fall.
Visuals and Sound
The visuals of the film as a whole weren’t bad. I found it a bit off for the lighting to be so dim in the fire scene at the end, in particular because throughout the course of the film we’re exposed to fire as a warm and lighting force, as well as a destructive one.
And I do understand; the climax of this film is a bit gritty and sort of requires the use of a dimmer lighting standard because it references the fall of the antagonist in a way that exposes the harsh truth about fire and even of mankind as a whole.
One visual I deeply appreciated from the film is the use of a profile shot to expand the distance surrounding Mowgli on his journey away from home. The shot is really interesting and has a fantastic depth, something that I’ve come to expect from Disney’s films.
The majority of characters in the film are not relevant to the plot. The panther could have been the antagonist, and the bear could have played the role of the greedy king just as well and nothing would have changed too drastically. But this is understandable when you consider the fact that this is a relatively static story, and revolves around characters that have been established in the past.
Mowgli is the standing exception that proves the rule. Over the course of the film we witness the importance of his character but for one dire fault, he does not truly develop. Mowgli is a static character for all intents and purposes. He begins the story as an industrious young boy and ends the film the same industrious young boy. It seems that the world of the film bends around him rather than the character developing to accept the world.