Gets Better The Second Time Around: Looking Back on 2016’s The Jungle Book

First off, my apologies for the delays with the Sam Mendes week of film reviews. I’m currently in the middle of a move and (actually) spending time with the family. Courtesy of the latter comes this and the forthcoming Paddington review due later tonight here on The Cinemorph.

(from left to right) Part of The Jungle Book cast at the film’s world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles: Ritesh Rajan, Giancarlo Esposito, Lupita Nyong’o, Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley and director Jon Favreau ( Photo and Caption)


That said and, in spirit, done, The Jungle Book was, from a photographic standpoint great for foreground and background juxtaposition, and from a narrative standpoint, wonderful in terms of a straightforward plot, minus any feeling of culminating achievement for much of its supporting cast.

The Jungle Book

Director Jon Favreau presents a sneak peek from Disney’s The Jungle Book to select press on January 13th, 2016 at The El Capitan Theater in Hollywood (Getty Images Photo & Caption)

In the run-up to the as-yet unscheduled Favreau week (rest assured, it is coming), which trademarks of director Jon Favreau can we note down. Given that my previous experience with his filmography is only six out of eight features, at best – 2005’s Zathura: A Space Adventure, 2008 and 2010’s two Iron Man films, 2011’s Cowboys & Aliens and 2014’s Chef – let’s get started: his films

  1. Are – especially the first Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens, Chef and The Jungle Book – stories about people finding their place in the world from a pre-defined status quo;
  2. Often, paraphrasing IMDb and using experience, feature him in recurring roles, à la the Iron Man films and, especially so, Chef;
  3. Usually, feature special effects-heavy scenes to be, more often than not, blockbusters; the first two Iron Man films, Cowboys & Aliens and even Chef feature the same Iron Man repulsor-esque sound effect;
  4. Often feature a mentor-esque character, if more implied than anything else, helping the protagonist along to their destiny or an explicit mentor-mentee relationship, à la Bagheera in The Jungle Book; Ho Yinsen in Iron Man; Nick Fury & Howard Stark in Iron Man 2; Woodrow Dolarhyde in Cowboys & Aliens; and the relationship between Carl and Percy in Chef;
  5. Include cold opening-style traditional openings that begin the film in a (seemingly) pivotal scene which actually falls in the chronological order of the film’s plot, à la the Afghan ambush in Iron Man, Anton Vanko’s death in Iron Man 2, the awakening and fight in Cowboys & Aliens and the jungle chase scene in The Jungle Book.

Let me know what you think of the aforementioned in the comments below.

Screenwriter Justin Marks ( Photo)

Slightly more succinctly, but with no less gusto in spirit than vocable, kudos to screenwriter Justin Marks for writing a plot that is obvious from not too far out from the get-go.That plot – Mowgli’s desire to find his place among the animals of the jungle – is the throughline that starts and ends the film. There’s the very subjectively seen act-by-act breakdown in the latter half of this piece.

(from left to right) Part of the cast of The Jungle Book at the Hollywood premiere of the film: Ritesh Rajan, Giancarlo Esposito, Lupita Nyong’o, Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley and director Jon Favreau ( Photo)

You may have seen’s recent interview with Neel Sethi of Mowgli fame and their, rightly justified, praise of him as acting as being anything but alone on the set of The Jungle Book. From the film alone, that praise seems justified. If nothing else, Sethi’s depiction of the quest-y nature of his, I daresay, quest for true belonging, the running from place to place, and the impetuousness to do it are things he does really well.

Composer John Debney seen scoring the Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra for the film, Valentine’s Day ( Photo and Caption)

Harking back to the title, the score is something that, despite its near-relegation to the background, has grown on me a little more too. Much to my demerit, I can’t pinpoint how particular tracks on the score album work in the film. Perhaps a third viewing is in order.

Director of photography, Bill Pope ( Photo)

Harking back to the title again, the cinematography is great in how it frames foreground as the status quo and the background as the destination on multiple occassions, especially when Bagheera and Mowgli are walking through the jungle. That, for want of greater commentary in absence of that third viewing, is all I have to contribute right now.

Quite frankly, The Jungle Book is just that: frank. It feels very no-nonsense and nothing-just-for-the-sake-of-it. That doesn’t mean it’s spartan or poorly made, just refreshingly (subjectively) simple. It is a great all-ages film, as I learned two nights ago, and worth a few more viewings in the future. You know I’ll give it another pass soon.

(While the opinions and observations cited above and below are the author’s own, the following sources were used for any facts cited above:,

Plot and Act-by-Act Breakdown:

Plot: a human boy, initially adopted by wolves, seeks to earn his place in the jungle of his youth.

Act 1: Mowgli opts to leave the jungle following Shere Khan’s threats to the other animals.

Act 2: Mowgli chooses to run on Bagheera’s instructions; back in the jungle, Akela, his father, is killed.

Act 3: He chooses to run deeper into the jungle following the baby foxes and he comes across Kaa’s tree; Baloo saves him.

Act 4: Mowgli, on Baloo’s request/guilt-tripping, chooses to climb for ‘hibernation‘ honey.

Act 5: Mowgli chooses to stay with Baloo and shoot in and out of the ‘man-village’ as he pleases.

Act 6: Mowgli decides to run away from Baloo following a botched attempt by the latter to convince him to go with Bagheera; he is promptly stolen away by King Louie’s monkeys.

Act 7: Mowgli chooses to escape with Bagheera from King Louie’s palace.

Act 8: Mowgli decides to run away from Bagheera – ‘stay away from me‘ – after hearing about Akela’s death; he runs to the ‘man-village’ , steals their fire, and returns to the jungle.

Act 9: Mowgli opts to retreat deeper into the now-ablaze jungle – ‘fight him like a man’ – and sets a trap for the pursuing Shere Khan, who is killed.

Act 10: Mowgli returns home; the elephants extinguish the fire.

Epilogue: Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo run through the jungle and adjust to their new life together.

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