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The film

  • Baloo in general, in this version. He's still something of the comic relief, but this film takes full advantage of the reality that Baloo is a very big, very strong, very heavy bear who next to nobody in the jungle would realistically be able to push around. Dabbles in moments of funny as well, such as the inability of King Louie's followers to throw Baloo out because he's simply plopped down and they can't move him.
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  • The monkeys swarming Baloo and Bagheera and the fight that follows. In particular, Baloo standing on his hind legs and roaring at the monkeys advancing towards him. This actually scares the piss out of the monkey army for a minute. Then they comically dogpile Baloo.
  • Bagheera, while often being Overshadowed by Awesome (courtesy of Shere Khan), is one badass panther. The fact that he faced off Shere Khan twice and still lives to tell the tale about it shows that his reputation is well earned.
    • In his first fight with Shere Khan he makes good use of his agility and speed to evade the tigers claws and lands a few blows on him. He's also very strong by leopard-standards, jumping at an attacking tiger and hitting him with enough momentum to send them both flying a few feet away from Mowgli. And in the final fight he actually runs down the freaking tiger, to give Mowgli more time.
    • He also stood his ground against legions of Louie's monkeys. It's one moment where he's significantly more badass than in the novel, where the panther was desperately fighting for his life, whereas here it didn't look as though he's about to give up anytime soon.
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  • The sheer size of King Louie and the threat he poses to Mowgli.
  • Mowgli escaping from Shere Khan by hitching a ride on one of the stampeding buffalo.
  • Mowgli's inventiveness in general. In a World... where everyone has claws, wings or a tough hide, how does a puny human child survive? By being smart - exactly how real humans got to the top of the food chain.
  • In the climax a bear, a panther and a pack of wolves fight Shere Khan. Each of those fights deserve a mention, since all of them are willing to go toe on toe with the most feared predator in the jungle. All of them fight the tiger in a different manner, matching their species.
    • First we have Baloo vs. Shere Khan. Especially awesome in comparison to the one-sided beatdown of the '67 version. What's also unique about this fight, is that Baloo's the only character whose physical strength matches Shere Khan's, which is a sight to behold. Though he goes down as quick as Bagheera did in his second fight against the tiger, the fact that Baloo held his own against the most feared and powerful predator in the whole jungle for as long as he did is pretty badass. And he did manage to pin down Shere Khan, though only briefly, and land a few good hits at the tiger. For a good while, it looks like the fight would be just between the two of them, Baloo poised such a serious challenge to Khan.
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    • Next the wolf pack takes on the tiger in a more tactical manner. They corner him and attack him from different angles, trying to catch him off-guard. Since Shere Khan is a Lightning Bruiser they don't succeed, but it shows them to be combat tacticians.
    • Then Bagheera runs the tiger down and is a good deal more vicious this time than in his previous approach. At one point the tiger started to continue his pursuit of Mowgli, leaving a seemingly defeated Bagheera behind, only for the panther to grab him again. He even kicks Shere Khan's face with his hindlegs, when buried under him. Though he loses again, Bagheera's determination to protect Mowgli at all costs shines at that moment. Note, in this whole fight, Bagheera is the only one Shere Khan actively tries to kill (since his bite to Baloo's neck was only to put him out cold).
    • Which leads to a Big Damn Heroes moment for Raksha, when she flings herself at the tigers neck to save Bagheera, and seconds later the rest of the pack follows and they proceed to dogpile him, biting any bit of him they can reach, in a completely different tactical approach. You can even see the tiger howl in pain once.
    • Shere Khan himself deserves a mention. After all, he defeats all his opponents, and while he took a few hits he isn't seriously injured. It becomes quite obvious why the jungle lives in fear of him. The fights also illustrate how adaptable Shere Khan is in his fighting style, by facing Fragile Speedsters (the wolves), a Mighty Glacier (Baloo) and something in between (Bagheera)
  • Mowgli luring Shere Kahn into the burning forest.
  • Mowgli using his "tricks" to save the baby elephant from the mud pit.
  • King Louie isn't just a kooky obstacle in this version. Yes, with Walken at the helm he's still very much the kook in general, but his desire stems not just from becoming like humans, but wanting to use Mowgli to create fire. As they make clear, fire in the jungle is an ultimate power for whoever's using it. Unlike the original, wherein he treated fire as simply being the key, it is made very clear here he wishes to harness the means to destroy whatever he likes.
    • Louie emerging from his temple and letting out a mighty roar that goes on for several seconds and makes Baloo, Bagheera, Mowgli, and the other monkeys all freeze. For fans of prehistoric animals, witnessing this was like watching the Tyrannosaurus rex of the apes resurrected from the pages of history in an Indian Jurassic Park.
  • The recitations of the opening of Kipling's The Law for the Wolves. All of them.
    • But especially the one at the climax. All of Mowgli's friends stand up to Shere Khan, including the entire wolf pack, even those who voted for Mowgli to leave the pack in the first place. Shere Khan's confusion absolutely sells it. While he doesn't back off, he clearly didn't anticipate this!
  • Although a villain, Shere Khan is more vicious, competent, and threatening than ever before, and completely owns every scene he's in.
    Shere Khan: You want to put yourselves between me and the Man Cub!? I will have you all in my teeth!
  • The Elephants. The first sign we get of them is when Bagheera and Mowgli notice them in one of the forests in the jungle. Bagheera immediately bows his head, with Mowgli doing the same, and the panther explains that the Elephants are the true rulers of the jungle: for it was they that created the lands, using their tusks to carve and push forth great swaths of tree and forest and rock and debris, and it was their trumpeting that caused all to listen. In one scene (and their periodic appearances through the film), the Elephants are made out to be a roving band of Physical Gods in the flesh for the jungle. To put a fine point on it, they put out the fire that threatens to consume the jungle at the film's climax like it was nothing.
  • Mowgli’s human father gets an honorable mention, immediately protecting his infant son from a vicious tiger set to attack them, and although he doesn’t survive the fight is able to injure Shere Khan in his dying moment enough that it causes Shere Khan to flee the scene and end up permanently scarred and blinded in one eye.

Meta

  • Scarlett Johansson's Nightmare Fuel-inducing performance as Kaa proves that casting her wasn't such a bad idea.
  • The Super Bowl trailer playing an awesome instrumental version of the Bare Necessities over scenes of the film. What a way to get hyped.
  • A later sneak peek reveals that Kaa wasn't lying when she said that she knows where Mowgli came from. She goes on to show him his entire backstory using her hypnosis. Not only is it cool, it's also book-accurate, as in the book Kaa was the wisest being in the jungle.
    • She also retains book Kaa's immense size, her reveal panning across her coiled over a tree, and then another tree, and another, so that the audience realizes just how immense this creature is.
  • The sheer amount of Winning Back the Crowd this film seems to have done for Disney's Live-Action division. Whether or not the final product lives up to the trailers remains to be seen, though.
    • Judging from the 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yes it does.
  • The special effects. The vast majority of the film is CGI, but you would never know that if the animals weren't talking. These all look like real creatures, making some films that have used actual animals look fake.
  • Both the beginning and the end credits. It starts with a hand drawn version of the current Disney logo along with the same piece of music the 1967 animated film began plus Bagheera's narration.
    • The end credits are a homage to how Disney films would finish: with a book closing and large yellow fonts presenting the film's cast and crew. Also, it adds a musical number with King Louie reprising his theme in that same book.
      • In the special features and commentary on the Blu-ray release, it turns out the book prop used in the end credits is the very same prop used for the original animated movie.
  • Neel Sethi's entire performance. Not only does he give a great performance for a child actor, but he spent the entire film production acting against screens and air.

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