Thursday, April 14, 2016

Movie Review: THE JUNGLE BOOK (Review #2)

One thing about me is the fact that I never, ever watch trailers, I believe in going in every movie totally blind and that was the same case here. Given that, I must admit I might have been one of the few people that was totally indifferent about the new Jungle Book, not even Jon Favreau’s involvement managed to get me really excited about this film, and I am a huge fan of his. I simply could not care less for one reason or another, now after having seen it I must admit I was pleasantly warmed up by the film which won me over in less than a minute, yet I still contend a little indifference about this story and I might have figured out why.

Before delving into that let me praise the film for its many merits. I am going to address it, even if there probably isn’t a living film fan who hasn’t already heard about it, but indeed, these special effects are something to behold. I won’t call them as revolutionary as something like Star Wars, nor will I say this is the next step for filmaking, since it clearly is a particular case given the type of film it is, and truthfully it is a case in which the special effects serve and enhance story, still, this is the first time I have ever felt a CGI being so believable and palpable. It did take a couple of minutes to get adjusted to, but once you do you are immersed in a world where you will hardly notice any CGI. The integration of the actor, the jungle and the animals is seamless, it carries weight and not even for one second becomes distracting.

Talking about actors, Neel Sethi is unbelievable. He feels absolutely genuine and comfortable on screen, rarely ever missing a beat and carrying the whole movie on his own. I have no idea what Favreau must have done to direct him this perfectly and it someway it reminds you of the joy of cinema, where you will be genuinely asking yourself: “how the hell did they do that?!”. Favreau also demonstrates his great talent behind the camera by not loosing himself in an extravaganza of effects, he keeps it simple, concentrating on the story which has always a flow and never stops to make the audience emptily look at an effect just for the sake of shock. He also has to thank John Debney’s score which was a key part of the success of this film. Multiple times I really felt the music coming in, without ever being distracting, and giving many scenes its most important beats. I hand’t heard of this composer before, but he really made himself noticeable with this brilliant score, which gives the film a real emotional flow which culminates in a really thrilling climax that by far was the most engrossing part of the film.

Despite all of these goods, I still found a slight emotional distance with the whole film. I have to point out firstly that it does spoon feed the audience a little too much at moments and does not take advantage of some great visual storytelling opportunities. There is some of that don’t get me wrong, but I definitely felt it could have strengthened its gravitas and intensity multiple times, by slightly holding back on dialogue or exposition and show a little more action and movement on screen.

The other reason I feel, like I said in my introduction, a little indifferent is probably because the story simply isn’t that resonant to me for different reasons. I never found it to be as interestingly allegorical as something like Zootopia or Finding Nemo. To me it never fully manages to transcend its setting and I find it to remain a fantastical story with a good sense of wonder and adventure, some good metaphors, but never being an engrossing mythological tale. I simply don’t find a close connection with the characters which for me don’t elevate their personas to an archetypal status an remain slightly limited to their role in the story. Confront this with anything from, as I said, Zootopia and Finding Nemo to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, I don’t find that frame of reference in the Jungle Book, I don’t look at it as a universal tale as I do with many others.

Still it remains quite a story and one that definitely has had huge success with many audiences through the years and whilst I may have some personal reservations about it, I still believe it deserves this kind of re-telling which gave me a pleasant experience in the theater and is sure to do so and more with any kind of viewer.
James's Score: 7/10

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