I went with a friend to see the new Jungle Book movie today and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Actually, I should probably wait till nephews have seen it and ask their thoughts! :)
For now, we both thought the imagery stunning and the CGI wonderful. It was hard to believe it was all greenscreen, shot in studio! There seemed to be depth and distance and I thought the kid must have run for days to get all those scenes and leaps and twists in. Neel Seethi (the young boy) did a good job pulling us into the story and reacting to the animals. (We were a bit torn on that—my friend liked him more than I did!) I was especially impressed to see shadows moving over him as the CGI animals walked by.
And the voices were also appealing and effective in their various personas. Idris Elba and Bill Murray in particularly conveyed menace and a lazy intensity as needed! And as soon as Christopher Walken started up we just sat back to enjoy the performance.
But we were both torn by the pulling in of the previous songs. The new visuals emphasized the power of the natural world, the animals and the tensions there. Despite the fact the animals talked and didn't eat each other, it seemed "realistic." Then came the songs. Both “The Bare Necessities” (which I still want to be the Bear Necessities!) and “I Want To Be Like You” were lifted straight from the musical cartoon version that I remember from long ago. How did they fit in with the overall mood that was being shown until then? I’m not sure they worked for me.
Overall, though, even if I got swept into the visuals, what was new to this story? What will make it more memorable for the new generation? What was the new spin? Despite a few changes, I didn't feel there was anything new uncovered.
In some ways it reminds me of when an author tries to pull in too many ideas to the story. “It’s going to be vivid and strong and dark! But I need these funny bits to make readers interested. And these romantic bits to keep some other readers. Oh, and I need to put some explanation here. And this is just nice writing so I want to keep it.”
Sometimes putting all those aspects together can work and make the story truly compelling.
However, I do feel that more often than not it gives a disconnected feeling so that readers can’t settle into the story as a whole but instead get swept from emotion to conflict to setting and back to another element. Sometimes I want to tell authors first to trust the story they are telling to bring them to the end, and then work to figure out if all the elements are necessary.
Still, it was a good way to spend a Monday--even one where the sun was actually out and the day was getting to be a lovely spring one! :)