The world is full of animals – each one belonging to a category. Whether it’s mammal, marsupial, insect, crustacean, cold-blooded, warm-blooded, etc… But one animals stands out from the rest. A one-of-a-kind animal that cares solely for itself (based on the majority vote). Can you guess what animal I speak of? I speak of mankind – or simply put “man”.
This movie vastly covers the main difference between mankind and the animal kingdom. Besides the most obvious being appearances and habits. I speak more of the mind; how human beings think is what truly divides us from the rest. We, as human beings, have made it so there’s two very distinct kingdoms: one ruled by wild animals, and the other ruled by “civilized” men. You’ll come to find how complex humans can be and each one differs from the next. You may even side with the animals’ side…
As a very young boy, Mowgli travels with a large party through the exotic jungles of India, accompanied by his father and his pet baby wolf. While travelling on horse, Mowgli sees his father (on ground) socializing with a pretty woman, when he presents her with a lovely red flower called Nasturtium (Empress of India). The woman smiles at his father and then he kisses her! He looks to Mowgli, giving him a wink as he passes by. Not exactly the best dating advice to send to your kid…
Later on that night, Mowgli attempts to do the same, but with a girl named Kathryn Brydon. Her father, Colonel Brydon (played by Sam Neil), is in charge of their expedition through the Indian jungles. Kathryn, whom everyone calls Kitty, being the same age as Mowgli is rather shocked at having a boy try to kiss her. She runs in fear to her tent! Mowgli’s face turns into a sad pout as he walks away in shame. She reappears with a gift for him to which she throws to him: her bejeweled bracelet given to her by her mother.
Due to unfortunate events caused by none other than Shere Khan, the King of the Jungle (a Siberian Tiger), Mowgli and his wolf cub get separated from the group. He manages to befriend a pack of wolves in the jungle thanks to his wolf cub. It wasn’t confirmed but I believe his cub was related to these wolves, so with that in mind it’s not that hard to believe the wolves would also raise Mowgli. Although, if it weren’t for Bhageera finding Mowgli in the first place and leading him to the wolves, I don’t believe Mowgli would have even found them – let alone survive.
Bhageera (a beautiful black leopard, known as a panther in this story) befriends Mowgli, as well as a baby bear cub named Baloo. Growing up in the wild jungles, Mowgli and his friends grow up into full-grown adults. His clothes have now diminished to just a loincloth – but what he lacks in apparel, he makes up for it with muscle. A lean-muscled gorgeous man he has become. Mowgli, played by the talented Jason Scott Lee, spends most of his time with his wolf family running at top speed through the jungles.
By the way, did I mention this film is a live-action movie with actors and actual real-life animals? No voice-overs, just all real animal interactions used, even Mowgli speaks/acts like an animal. Not a man of many words. I should also that The Jungle Book, was released in 1994, directed by Stephen Sommers, and produced by Edward S. Feldman and Raju Patel. Both books : The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book were the inspirations behind this epic film.
With a stretched out arm, a sleeping Mowgli leaves his bracelet vulnerable to thievery. A monkey with an eye for “bling” undoes his bracelet and escapes with it. Mowgli gives chase and ends up in an exquisite city invaded by mass amounts of monkeys – ruled by King Louis (a crowned orangutan ape). He manages to redeem respect from King Louis by defeating Kaa, a ridiculously giant snake with an appetite for greedy men. A jeweled knife with the head of an elephant on the handle is all Mowgli takes from the enormous amounts of treasure he finds. He cares not for jewels or gold; the knife was kept since it saved his life from Kaa. In a way, I believe King Louis let him keep it as a reward, along with his bracelet.
Mowgli runs into Kitty again, who has grown into a dazzling beauty (played by the lovely Lena Headey), when she decides to explore “The Black Jungle”, or the jungle-side ruled by beasts, where of course Mowgli resides. Upon seeing one another, Mowgli attempts the flower-for-a-kiss trade on her and she flees yet again. Unfortunately, she runs right into the arms of her fiancé, Captain William Boone (played by Cary Elwes). He and his soldiers spot Mowgli – seeing him as a threat they attack him. Mowgli barely escapes with his life with only a mere bullet wound scratch to the arm. Kitty is now rather upset with William’s behavior.
During her encounter with Mowgli moments ago, she recognizes her bracelet immediately – putting the two and two together. He’s Mowgli! He gets himself caught by the soldiers however after he sneaks into her city, trying again to gain a kiss from her after the flower gift. Poor guy can’t take “no” for an answer. But of course, he doesn’t know any better considering he lacks human social skills and communication.
After realizing his identity, Kitty goes to convince her father that Mowgli should learn the “ways of man”. She also gets Dr. Plumford (played by John Cleese) to help her educate him. Such a fast learner he becomes; even learns to flirt with Kitty! The facial expressions Jason Scott Lee gives throughout this film are absolutely adorable and easy-to-read. Mowgli is incapable of hiding his emotions, nor capable of lying – traits that human beings master when growing into adulthood. Animals, on the other hand, have no lies. No secrets. No agenda in mind for betrayal.
Unfortunately, William has such an agenda planned. He questions Mowgli on the whereabouts of the bejeweled elephant knife discovery. “Monkey City”, Mowgli calls it. A place of a dark legend – undiscovered by Man. That is until now…
Allowing greed to get the best of the soldiers, minus Dr. Plumford and Colonel Brydon, they devise a devious plan to kidnap Miss Kitty in order to convince Mowgli to lead them to the treasure. He does eventually, but not too many survive the wrath of Shere Khan and The Black Jungle. Only William and Kitty make it to the treasure. Very fortunate news indeed…Especially when Kitty breaks off her engagement to Captain Boone.
Mowgli learns early on from his education that, “Man has many laws. Most about killing. You kill for sport…And anger. And treasure. The jungle law say we may only kill to eat, or to keep from being eaten.” He even goes so far as to say, “The more I learn what is a man, the more I want to become an animal.” I can honestly say that I agree with him whole-heartedly.
Between the final showdown of Mowgli and William, Mowgli makes no attempt to attack first, only out of self-defense. All he wants is to escape with Kitty. They manage to do just that, leaving behind William and the treasure. William’s lust for wealth becomes his downfall, and even his death. Kaa, who guards the treasure, comes in the nick of time to prevent William from leaving the city.
Outside the palace, Mowgli and Kitty come face-to-face with Shere Khan. Without any fear, Mowgli approaches the King of the Jungle and by doing so gains the full attention of him. Shere Khan releases a fearsome roar at him to which Mowgli imitates. He then walks away peacefully leaving Kitty rather confused as to what just happened. Mowgli explains to her that Shere Khan does not see him as a threat. But rather as an animal belonging to the animal kingdom. Mowgli is seen as his equal, as a king would see another king.
Kitty returns with Mowgli to her friends and family awaiting just outside The Black Jungle entrance. Led by Bhageera, they cross the bridge overlooking the water which separates The Black Jungle from the rest of the jungle. A nasturtium flower is plucked by Kitty. Smiling, she hands it to Mowgli. He smiles in return, and without smelling the flower they both go in for a kiss. Success at long last!
With so many moral lessons, this movie is a treasured gem! Even as a kid, I understood the differences told in this film between mankind and animals. To think, we, as mankind, could co-exist with animals were it not for greed, corruption, and desire for control…We may learn to live simple lives like that of Mowgli; perhaps it is possible. But if so, would that make us more like animals than humans? One can only ponder…