The Jungle Book
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
The Jungle Book (2016)
Stars: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jon Favreau
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Fairview Entertainment
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
The Jungle Book’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Jungle Book, a Disney film directed by the bodyguard from Disney’s Iron Man, and starring actors from Disney’s The Avengers, Disney’s Iron Man, who is such a money director he doesn’t even know it.
The film takes place on a Los Angeles soundstage, where a human boy named Mowgli is being raised either by wolves or by a panther, it’s unclear. What is clear is that there’s a drought going on, and all the creatures of the jungle have to share the same soda fountain like a bunch of animals.
A tiger named Sharon Khan shows up to throw his stripes around. He sniffs out a human, which is his least favorite smell to sniff, and says he’ll kill Mowgli as soon as this soda fountain runs out of crisp, refreshing Sprite. So the panther, Bagheera, takes Mowgli in search of the human village, where the Sprite factory is located. Almost immediately Sharon Khan attacks them, and the two get separated in a way that’s exciting and dangerous but still PG.
Mowgli meets a big snake who used to be male fifty years ago but is now female, which Mowgli respects. They turn out to be incompatible for unrelated reasons, so he starts hanging out with a bear named Baloo instead.
Bagheera finds Mowgli and Baloo, and just when you think all the monkey business is over, it most definitely is not. King Louie, lesser-known son of King Kong, tells Mowgli: guess what, he’s got a fever, and the only prescription is learning how to make fire. But Mowgli left his Zippo at home, so Bagheera and Baloo help him escape, and King Louie is positively crushed.
But Mowgli finds out Sharon Khan killed his wolf dad, so he grabs a torch to go… I don’t know… report him to the Olympic Committee. He brings a little too much heat, which he admits is totally his bad, but it works out in the end. KHAAAANNN! Going against the tradition of Mowglis past, Mowgli decides to stay in the jungle at least until it’s time for college.
The Jungle Book is an allegory about mankind’s relationship with nature. The film suggests that man’s tendency to bend and shape nature is instinctive, just like riding a cyclotron. Even though Mowgli grew up with no humans to teach him calculus and all their other liberal mumbo jumbo, he exhibits the human desire to manipulate his environment through creativity. Mowgli is an example of a literary trope called the noble savage, which represents the idea that absent exposure to civilization’s bad habits, man’s fundamental not-terribleness will shine through. Since Mowgli grew up untainted by the world of men, he exhibits only positive human traits; in addition to being clever, he is generous and has great fashion sense. Thus, he uses his abilities to satisfy not only his own needs, but also those of any whiny animal who comes to call.
However, his wolf family initially discourages such behavior, seeing his actions as hacky David Blaine-style “tricks” that disrupt the natural order. In the eyes of the animals, natural law must be obeyed, not circumvented, which is why they wrote a whole poem about it. And while not in iambic pentameter, the wolves’ credo is still integral to maintaining a fair and balanced ecosystem. Without the Sprite truce, for example, smaller creatures would die of thirst, thereby leaving predatory animals with nothing to snack on between meals .
Sharon Khan sees Mowgli as a threat to this order, believing mankind will never look up from their Samsung Galaxy Notes long enough to harmoniously co-exist with nature. After all, it is man’s ingenuity that lets him harness fire — primarily through the Samsung Galaxy Note. Sharon Khan assumes Mowgli’s inventiveness will inevitably develop into destructive acts, because that’s just how men are, and tigers are always the ones who have to clean up after them.
But shockingly, Sharon Khan’s interest is not purely altruistic. When Mowgli wields the torch like a royal sceptre, he threatens to usurp Sharon Khan as de facto king of the jungle, assuming neither of them recognizes King Louie’s reign as legitimate. Their confrontation is a play on the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus Rosenberg, two brothers tasked by their overbearing cousin Zeus with shaping Earth’s inhabitants. Epimetheus gives the animals survival tools such as claws, wings, and chainsaws, but gives nothing to man. So, Prometheus steals fire from the gods to protect the poor, pitiful, defenseless, fragile, not-even-worth-the-skin-they’re-printed-on humans. Mowgli inverts the myth by stealing fire to defend the animals.
Ultimately, the film teaches that it is possible for a human to peacefully co-exist with nature, provided he acts as its steward and not as its conqueror. Which basically means only using weapons accidentally and not on purpose.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Hakuna matata.