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Movie Breakdown: The Jungle Book (Noah)

April 15, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Jon Favreau has been sort of fussing around in his own private playground post-Marvel, and his output has been dodgy at best. His upcoming, almost entirely motion captured adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book hasn’t been helped by its saccharine, generic trailers, but, hell, maybe Favreau’s indie sojourn Chef helped stoke his old fires a little bit.

Post-Screening Ramble:

It isn’t that films that are entirely motion captured are the world we live in now, it’s that we are proud of this achievement. As much as we applaud someone like J.J. Abrams for bringing practical effects back to Star Wars, the press tour for The Jungle Book has been an almost non-stop lovefest for the green-screened, mo-capped world Mr. Favreau has created, with actor’s applauding the fact that they didn’t even have to show up on set. It could be frightening, it could be a further stumble down the CGI-whirlpool that will inevitably suck us all down, but in Mr. Favreau’s capable hands, The Jungle Book isn’t only a technical marvel, but a surprisingly straightforward and endearing take on the classic tale. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a small boy living under the purvey of jungle animals, mainly wolves and a panther, in the heart of, well, the jungle. It is an idyllic upbringing until a vengeful tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), begins hunting him, forcing him out on his own to discover who he really is. This really might be the first truly successful marriage of motion capture with story. This an almost entirely immersive experience. Even though you are fully aware as an audience member that the world you are looking at is just pixels arranged in different patterns, at some point, early on, the brain just lets go, and there you are, an observer of this magical world of talking jungle animals. It’s amazing, but everyone has slogged through a slickly made mo-cap film, searching for the non-existent heart at its digital core. The Jungle Book transcends its genre. Though newcomer Neel Sethi borders just on the edge of winking rapscallion, for the most of the film’s running time he manages to imbue his quirky, well, childness, with layers of believable emotional output. His interactions with non-existent creatures (Bill Murray’s fantastic bear, Baloo, at the top of the pile) are genuine, authentic relationships and though yes, Favreau so painstakingly detailing his world and his animated movements is a big part of it, Sethi’s ability to stand ground with some of the great actors of all time, is at the heart of it. And, well, that’s where Favreau really scores, he doesn’t sacrifice heart for form, and he doesn’t sacrifice technological wow for overabundant emotional outpouring. No, instead he creates a classic coming of age story, but just uses the next wave of technology to make it very much his own.

One More Thought:

This has still not sold me on Warcraft: The Movie. But it has sold me on Favreau making more films.

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Movie Breakdown: The Jungle Book

April 14, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Disney’s decision to systematically do live action re-tellings of their classics isn’t something that I think is particularly exciting.  With that being said, I do like Jon Favreau as a director, and the trailers have hinted that his take on The Jungle Book may be more than a simple money-grab.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I’m assuming that all of you already know what The Jungle Book is about, so I’m not going to bother with running down plot details.  Also, just a heads up, I haven’t seen the cartoon version in forever, so I won’t be attempting to tell you what the differences are between it and Jon Favreau’s take.  I’m simply here just to let you know whether or not you should see the film, and my answer to that is a resounding YES.  I really enjoyed Favreau’s modernized and sporadically intense The Jungle Book.  Neel Sethi, the boy who plays Mowgli, is an engaging presence on the screen, and the film’s variety of voices (especially Bill Murray as Baloo) all turn in inspired performances.  The Jungle Book also looks fantastic.  Sure, there are couple of blips here and there where something seems oddly animated, but for 99% of the time, the film features some of the best CG work in recent memory.

If you’re in need of a quality film, then look no further than The Jungle Book.  It’s a true spectacle that’s clearly been crafted by folks who care about the story they’re telling.  If only ever re-telling/reboot/re-imagining was this good.

One Last Thought:

The Jungle Book is the first film in forever that’s actually worth the 3D up-charge. Surprisingly (and how sad is that?), it’s done in a way that’s rather immersive, and I’m actually comfortable with saying that it’s how you should view the film (at least on your first go-round with it).  Good work, Favreau!  Rarely does anyone get 3D right.

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