Sir Ben Kingsley admits it gets "dark" in places but has defended The Jungle Book amid claims it is too scary for children.

The 72-year-old actor voices big cat Bagheera opposite 12-year-old Neel Sethi as Mowgli in Jon Favreau's adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book, and Kingsley believes it is the perfect family movie which will show children that they can overcome adversity.

He said: "There are moments in the film which are tremendous gifts to children. Jon knows that when you are telling a story to a child you cannot eliminate the dark side, it's unfair.

"You are not preparing the child for the future, you are not telling that child anything if everything is sugar-coated in pink.


"It does get dark out there, the child will be challenged as a child as well as an adult and any child watching The Jungle Book safely with a parent will say, 'That's me, I can do that and I can overcome terrific adversity', and I think that is an essential part of a child's story."

The Jungle Book is due out in New Zealand next Thursday during school holidays, and has been given a PG rating here, with censors warning of "violence and scary scenes".

The film was deemed too scary for children in India, with the Central Board of Film Certification saying the "3D effects are so scary that the animals seem to jump right at the audience".

Trailers have shown Mowgli coming face-to-face with giant bears, sinister snakes and tigers.

But The Jungle Book has had rave reviews at overseas screenings, with Variety saying it "maintains a buoyant heartbeat beneath all the digital flash".

"(Director) Jon Favreau never loses sight of the fact that he's making an adventure story for children," the publication wrote.

Hitfix said it was "mind-boggling that this entire thing was shot on soundstages using greenscreens".

"Favreau's jungle feels like a real place, but it's heightened and stylised and it feels like a perfect fit for the talking animals who make up the majority of the cast."

Legendary critic Robert Ebert wrote: "This quietly majestic film should be considered a triumph."

Meanwhile, Kingsley and Sethi were among the stars of the movie who walked the green carpet at the European Premiere at London's BFI Imax on Wednesday, where a live band played songs including Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You.

Although there have already been a number of movies, including Disney's 1967 cartoon, based on Kipling's book, Kinglsey was careful not to call the latest film a remake.

He said: "Let's be careful about calling it a remake. What we are doing is making a film based upon a book by Rudyard Kipling called The Jungle Book and the book is the most important word in the title. He wrote this brilliant book over a 100 years ago and it's a wonderful interpretation of it again."

And although this family-friendly flick is not yet out in the cinemas, there's already talk of a sequel.

When asked about the possibility of The Jungle Book 2, Kingsley added: "Oh good, good, say it louder haha."

When asked if he would be back, he responded with a grin and a wink.

The Jungle Book is released next Thursday in New Zealand and also stars Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken but they were absent from the premiere.

- and Bang! Showbiz