A dark twist for a Disney classic: “The Jungle Book” review
By AMANDA CASE
“The Jungle Book” is resurrected in the new action-packed blockbuster, which includes famous voices like Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken and Lupita Nyong’o.
Jon Favreau of “Iron Man” fame uses stunning computer-generated imagery to revive this classic tale by Rudyard Kipling, recreating the jungle animals we all knew so well.
For those of us who need a recap of the 1967 original movie: Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi, is a child who has been raised by wolves but finds out he is no longer welcome in the jungle by the menacing tiger Shere Khan. Having been harmed by man, Shere Khan promises to eliminate anyone he sees as a threat to the jungle. After abandoning the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a journey to find humans, accompanied by Bagheera, a panther who has become his stern mentor.
On his captivating voyage of self-discovery and adventure, Mowgli encounters many jungle creatures including the free-spirited bear Baloo (Murray), seductive python Kaa (Johansson) and the persuasive orangutan King Louis (Walken). Some of these animals don’t have Mowgli’s best interests at heart and he finds this out through epic animal battles and suspenseful encounters.
This live-action adaptation is much more dramatic than the original. There are moments of edgy violence and startling scares. Even the timeless tune “I Wanna Be Like You” comes at a tense time in the film, almost leaving the audience somewhat haunted.
But even with all the action, the movie stays true to its Disney roots and maintains a light-hearted spirit with humor sprinkled in throughout. Some of the characters also offer a comfort that we’re used to from many Disney characters.
The visuals are pretty mind-blowing to say the least. The animals look very tangible, down to every last strand of fur. Their facial expressions are captured in a way that’s extremely realistic for animation. The entire movie was shot using motion capture and then the scenes were cut together. Using that footage, the effects team then built the film’s sets virtually.
“Everything was mapped against the virtual sets,” Favreau told Wired Magazine. “We designed the sets like you would for a video game.”
The filming took place in a warehouse in Los Angeles while Sethi acted out the scenes on small sets created by the production designers. Other actors stood in for the animals and props and blue screens were also used during filming. Meticulous lighting was programmed to create particular shadows of the different animals as well. The creators definitely pushed filmmaking technology further than it’s ever gone before.
Despite being created this way, similar to the methods used in “Avatar” (2009) and “Gravity” (2013), “The Jungle Book” appeared as if it was actually shot out in the jungle with real animals. It never seemed to be fake, only stunning.
Since opening on April 15, the movie so far, has grossed over $300 million worldwide and has become the highest grossing Hollywood release ever in India, with about $24.6 million since opening. The movie, which cost roughly $175 million to make, continues to climb the Hollywood charts and is sure to pave the way for future Disney remakes.