With Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg changed the idea of the role that CGI and VFX could play in a mainstream Hollywood film. The dinosaurs looked like real animals, not VFX cutouts or animated toons. They interacted with the other characters in a real environment, and gave us moments of stunning drama as real actors in a real film.
It is a journey Spielberg started with Jaws, where a permanently hungry shark played the central role in the film.
Jov Favreau takes the idea to its extreme with The Jungle Book. Neel Sethi’s Mowgli is the only “real” character in the film. In a direct reversal of previous cinematic trends, we invade the jungle and inhabit the world of animals. Every character in The Jungle Book is created with CGI, and look real enough, right out of a National Geographic documentary. The kicker: they talk.
The live-action technology is state of the art, and watching Mowgli in the jungle talking to Baghera or Kaa, and sitting on Baloo or riding on mammoths is a surreal experience. The action sequences are gripping simply because they are visually so real. When Mowgli escapes Sher Khan in the first half thanks to a herd of rampaging buffaloes, and then repeats a similar feat from the land of the Bandarlog and a gigantic ape, the experience is immersive. And when he’s singing Bare Necessities with Baloo, both child and bear frolicking in the river, you cannot help but feel like joining in.
All of this is set in the world of Disney movies. The narrative and the plot are straightforward. There are just good and bad guys, with no place for grey (except for a wolf). The tone of the film is light and full of easy humor, with a simple and clear message going out at the end of the film.
The Jungle Book, as a film, is the signpost of a new era of filmmaking. CGI and live-action in film have been around for years, and the last decade has seen an explosion of films that have increasingly relied on digital technology to create visuals that would not have been possible otherwise. But this is a full-fledged summer blockbuster shot entirely on stages with a blue screen with one, single, human actor. Both the process and the technology to create The Jungle Book are becoming the norm for shooting films. It is only our imagination that can now limit what we can see and experience in a cinema hall.
And who would have thought that a wolf could be so adorable?
English, Drama, Color