Early reviews for Disney’s “The Jungle Book” have come out and the critics seem to be really loving it. Right now it has 100% critic consensus rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Most critics seem to be praising the film saying that it even surpasses the original Disney animated classic.
Even more surprising is that a lot of critics are saying that the movie must be seen in 3D! Ever since “Avatar” was praised for it’s innovative 3D technology, most studios jumped on the 3D band wagon but nothing came close to the quality of “Avatar”. It sounds like “The Jungle Book” is not using 3D as a cash grab but it is a truly immersive 3D experience that if you have the opportunity to see it in 3D, choose the 3D version.
This “Book” might lack the post-vaudeville razzamatazz of its predecessor, but director Jon Favreau and a team of effects wizards plunge us into one of the big screen’s most engrossing artificial worlds since “Avatar.” (Not to mention the most convincing conversational creatures since “Babe.”) I don’t know where the fakery stops and the real animals, waterfalls and veldts begin in this movie, and I don’t really want to.
Within five minutes, I had already mouthed a few “holy *!*?” at the 3D I was seeing. It’s so beautiful! It stinks how 3D has been misused since its 2009 resurgence with Avatar. It’s become something we all try to avoid if the non-3D showing fit in our schedule. The Jungle Book is one of those handful of movies that belongs in 3D. The 3D legitimately enhances the experience. I don’t like 3D as an industry tool to milk money out of us poor schlubs just so we can watch a slightly darker screen, but if you see The Jungle Book, you should see it in 3D. This is one of those movies they should never release on Blu-ray and just re-release it every few years in 3D.
The voice-casting of his animal companions is shrewd to the point of unnerving. Elba’s Shere Khan rings with magnificence. Lupita Nyong’o brings a gentle dignity to the role of Raksha, the mother wolf. Scarlett Johansson plays the bewitching python Kaa with a lounge-singer’s purr, while Bill Murray’s Baloo is so blissfully mellow, whenever he speaks, you’d almost swear you can hear ice cubes clinking in a glass of single malt.
But aside from investing in top-drawer digital craftsmanship, perhaps the canniest move Disney made on this film was hiring Jon Favreau to helm it. Maintaining the buoyant heartbeat beneath all the digital flash, Favreau never loses sight of the fact that he’s making an adventure story for children — no small matter in a kid-pic landscape flooded with inappropriately gritty reboots and frenetic distraction devices — and when positive word of mouth arrives to buttress Disney’s all-out marketing efforts, the studio should have a substantial hit on its hands.
Transporting Rudyard Kipling’s beloved The Jungle Book, its dense wilderness surroundings and anthropomorphised animals into the live-action realm seems a difficult task; however with Jon Favreau in the director’s chair, a high-profile cast lending their voices to the tale’s iconic talking creatures, and — most importantly — the latest in special effects wizardry turning the movie into a photorealistic spectacle, Disney makes it look easy. Nearly half a century ago, the studio turned the author’s collection of stories into an animated hit. Given the visual wonder of its second adaptation, as well as the corresponding emotional resonance, it should easily be able to repeat the feat.
As an event film that thrives on creating a sense of wonder rather than rich story, “The Jungle Book” is more than an incremental step forward in the digital effects arms race, with spectacular end-game images establishing a new high bar for digital reproduction of real-world animals and environments. The strikingly realistic scenery is dappled with color, light and shadow to create dramatic stages for masterful character animations— if only the story played out on this impeccably-realized fantasy had the same persuasive command.
But even as the drama and its treatment become increasingly conventional and familiar as the film moves toward its patly (and arguably overly) audience-pleasing wrap-up, the exceptional visual quality and lifelike animal renditions remain stunning throughout. […] After having completely succeeded in transporting you to its primeval jungle setting, the pic concludes, at the very end of the lengthy final credits, with the cheeky note, “Filmed in Downtown Los Angeles.” At least one sort of movie magic is still very much at work here.
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