Gabriella Robles, Class of 2018
A jungle has been built in Los Angeles—equipped with colorful birds chirping, monkeys swinging from trees, and a ruthless tiger on the hunt. Disney’s “The Jungle Book” hit theaters this past Friday, April 15th, and while it may appear to have been filmed in a majestic foreign forest, it was actually created completely by computers.
Jon Favreau has proven once again that he can direct an all-star action and adventure movie. The “Iron Man” director breaks new ground recreating the Rudyard Kipling tale, with a production value of $175 million due to its extensive and innovative visual effects. “The Jungle Book” has become much more than just an adaption of a Disney classic— it is a magnificent showcase of what 2016 visual effects are capable of. With all locations in the film being computer-generated VFX, “The Jungle Book” is telling an old tale with new technology. Oscar-winner effects director Rob Legato has yet again created a new standard in CGI technology. The effects team used 3D native cameras for the film, including unique analog and virtual cameras.
The film runs just short of two hours, which is enough time to tell a compelling story for adults but short enough to keep children from getting antsy. Justin Marks has rewritten the story we all know and love: “Man cub” Mowgli has been raised by a pack of wolves since birth but must leave when tiger Shere Khan threatens his life. Guided by a protective black panther, Bagheera, and a fun-loving bear, Baloo, Mowgli endures an epic journey in a coming-of-age story about humanity and manhood. By the end of the film, you will have forgotten that you’re watching animated animals and have fallen into the world he has created, feeling the passions of the characters— and that is exactly the magic of it. “The Jungle Book” is proof that a classic can be successfully revived when put into the hands of the right talent.
“The Jungle Book” is also the acting debut of 12 year-old Neel Sethi— the only human character to appear onscreen. Sethi was shot in front of blue screen, talking to hand puppets that would later be transformed into lifelike animals using the same PDX technology used to create the groundbreaking visuals of “Avatar.” Sethi is a product of the era’s technological abilities—a young performer who is just as capable of acting alongside a CGI bear as he is an actual human.
Young Sethi is not the only acting talent in the film, standing alongside an all-star cast to voice the CGI animals. Comedy legend Bill Murray plays a lovable Baloo, who delivers the famous song “Bare Necessities,” with a youthful and light-hearted charm. The cast also features big names, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Lupita Nyong’o, to provide an action and adventure throughout every minute of the film.
“The Jungle Book” is a triumph. From it’s gleefully nostalgic songs to its more intense action scenes, it keeps the attention of its viewers with a beautifully-written script and beautifully-created CGI world. There is a jungle in downtown Los Angeles, and you would’ve never guessed it.