An interesting update of Disney’s beloved 1967 film of the same name.
An unfortunate rarity amongst modern directors of extremely effects-heavy movies, director Jon Favreau has talked at length about the extreme skill and talent of the legions of visual animators working on bringing the movie to life. The movie, to my eyes, is essentially an animated movie, no matter how much it presents itself as live-action in the vein of Disney’s other recent live-action updates of older films (Cinderella, Pete’s Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, etc). Literally the only live-action element is the child actor. Everything else of any significance is CGI animation.
Taken in a vacuum, the CGI is impressive and visually appealing, but the presence of the human actor breaks the whole illusion to me. He is real, he is an actual human, and all the subtleties of the realities of human performance and live-action reality clash with the otherwise carefully-maintained illusory “live-action” CGI reality. The talking animals look utterly real when he’s not in the frame, but as soon as he is, the illusion is shattered. Still, the potential for this level of animation intrigues me. Apparently Jon Favreu will direct a remake of “The Lion King” done in the same style – without any human actors, perhaps it will be a more impressive, immersive feat.
The story is an interesting update to the 1967 film (I haven’t mentioned the books because it really is a remake of the that specific film adaptation, although Warner Bros is working on a straight adaption of the book itself), adding more complex motivations for the characters, and reframing environmental concerns in a more modern way. IT isn’t so much a matter of conquering and surviving in the jungle anymore, as much as tempering human proclivity to cause environmental destruction. It’s fascinating how differently fire is treated in this adaption compared to the original film.
The film works better as an intriguing experiment in visuals than a compelling story in its own right to me personally, but certainly is worth viewing for the steps made in terms of computer imagery. I give it three red flowers, and a man-cub.