Book v Film: The Jungle Book (2016)

“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenceless of all living things.”

Based on Rudyard Kipling‘s classic collection of stories and a re-imagining of the 1967 Disney animation, directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an orphaned human living in the remote jungle of India. Guided by his guardians – Raksha the wolf (Lupita Nyong’o), Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), and Bagheera the black panther (Ben Kingsley) – Mowgli sets out on a journey of self-discovery, meeting monsters of the jungle – including Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and King Louie (Christopher Walken) – while evading the threatening Shere Khan (Idris Elba).


The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.

It’s not often that a remake – let alone a CGI-heavy remake – of one of our favourite childhood films is successful, but The Jungle Book has certainly surpassed all of our expectations on that front. With equal measures of action and comedy and brilliant musical numbers, Favreau directs this already enjoyable story to create an upbeat adventure with real style.

The CGI effects really are some of the best in recent years and, as a film that is primarily about a young boy talking to animals, the photorealistic animation looks flawless. Combined with a truly exquisite voice cast, this film is a treat for both the eyes and ears and will undoubtedly fill you with joy on many levels.

You can buy the book here

Whilst I wouldn’t say that the film improves on its predecessor (because in my eyes, you can’t beat the Disney classic), there are certainly a few things that this adaptation does better. For one thing, it better portrays Shere Khan’s character, highlighting his limp and scarred face, turning him into the truly scary beast that he is. The film also better shows the wolves’ relationship with Mowgli and gives each of the characters a strong and unique personality.

That being said, this latest adaptation is very much a re-imagining of the Disney film and not a new adaptation of Kipling’s book. This new film does include a few original scenes from the book which the Disney film didn’t show, and has a much darker edge to it as Kipling’s story was, but there’s still much that the film changes or misses out on at the same time.

Whilst it is very much a family film, there are quite a few jumpy moments which only adds to the thrilling adventure that this film takes you on. But, with the inclusion of the brilliant Disney songs we all know and love, each with their own unique twist on them, this film will leave audiences of all ages with a huge smile on their face.

Differences From The Book:

Since the film only focuses on the stories of Mowgli, and not of the other 4 fables and characters that we meet in Kipling’s book, I will only look at the differences between the film and the 3 Mowgli fables to make a comparison.

Aside from the inclusion of the Disney songs, as well, here are the main differences from the film to the book:

  • The book starts with the wolf pack finding Mowgli. The film skips back to this scene a little further into the story but shows Bagheera bringing Mowgli to the wolves.
  • In the book, according to the Law, two non-related animals must vouch for a cub being accepted into the pack. Baloo steps in and says he will teach the child the Laws of the Jungle, and Bagheera says he will vouch for him, too. In the film, Baloo is not involved and Bagheera trains Mowgli the ways of the wolves.
  • In the book, Mowgli is a toddler and remembers some of his time amongst man, whereas he is much younger in the film and remembers nothing of his parents.
  • In the book, Mowgli is naked throughout, until he is forced to wear a loincloth when he goes to the man village. Obviously, he wears a loincloth throughout the film.
  • The wolf pack has a much bigger role in the book, although this latest adaptation does show more of Mowgli’s relationship with his brothers than the Disney version. In the book, several of the wolves remain with Mowgli throughout his life in the jungle and often visit him in the man village.
  • There’s a great story in the book where Bagheera tells Mowgli that he was born in a cage in the King’s palace which he managed to escape from, and he still has the mark of the human collar he wore. The film does not include any of Bagheera’s past.
  • Instead of teaching Mowgli the “bare necessities” of eating and sleeping, in the book, Baloo teaches Mowgli about the Laws of the Jungle, and hits him on the head if he gets anything wrong.
  • As well as Kaa being a male character in the book, he also has a much bigger role and even becomes close companions with Mowgli. Kaa actually saves Mowgli’s life a number of times and goes with Bagheera and Baloo to save him from the monkeys, as he is the only one the monkeys are truly afraid of. There’s also a scene in the book where Kaa helps Mowgli find some rare treasure from a white cobra, and where Kaa helps Mowgli attack a pack of hunting dogs who are threatening the wolf pack, by setting a swarm of vicious bees on them. Instead of having hypnotic eyes, as well, Kaa does a hypnotic dance, in the book, which Mowgli is the only one immune to.
  • There is no King Louie in the book. Instead, Mowgli is kidnapped by a community of monkeys known as the Bandar Log, who Mowgli has been confiding in, but they have no leader. They still live in the Cold Lairs ruins but, instead of making fire, they want him to teach them how to make huts to shelter from the wind.
  • We see Shere Khan talking to some of the younger wolves in the film but, in the book, he is successful in manipulating some of the younger wolves to help him cast Mowgli out.
  • This latest adaptation has a much better portrayal of the elephants, but it does not include a scene where they help Mowgli trash an entire man village in revenge.
  • In the book, Mowgli goes to live in the man village twice and stays there for a lengthy period of time. The first time, after his first scrap with Shere Khan and aged about ten, he lives as a cattle driver with a woman called Messua. She may or may not be his real mother, but she adopts him as her own and reveals that his real name was Nathoo. The second time, at the age of seventeen, Mowgli comes to the conclusion that he must rejoin men after Akela has died, Baloo has nearly gone blind and Bagheera is more decrepit. This time, Mowgli finally stays for good, but he stays out of choice, not because he has been told that it is the right thing to do.
  • Mowgli also has two fights with Shere Khan, in the book. The second time is after he has been living in the man village and, with the help of the wolves, they cause a herd of buffalo to crush Shere Khan to death. In the film, Shere Khan dies in the fire Mowgli has created. Although Mowgli does steal some fire from the man village to warn off Shere Khan, the fire does not spread throughout the jungle as it does in the film.
  • Shere Khan also has a sidekick – Tabaqui the Jackal – in the book, who is not included in the film.

Overall Verdict:

This latest version of The Jungle Book is more a re-imagining of the 1967 Disney animation than a new adaptation of Kipling’s classic, but it’s a beautiful and worthy rendition of his work all the same. This is definitely a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.

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