Visually, The Jungle Book is overwhelming and wonderfully grand. Like Maleficient, this is exactly what the 21st century should be doing to the classic stories – bringing out the imagination on the screen in a way it couldn’t possibly have been done before because of the lack of technology. This is Disney doing things right.
And the senses are so overpowered by this very detailed and beautifully designed experience that it makes for a whole different kind of cinematic experience – the kind that James Cameron mentioned when he criticised the Academy for being biased against blockbusters.
Of course, I don’t completely agree with Cameron’s views but watching something like The Jungle Book is definitely a special experience in my movie viewing. There’s a reason Mad Max: Fury Road is one of my most viewed movies of all times – exhilarating visual cinematic experiences are rare. Even when they put a lot into the technology, the resulting movie is often mediocre or so poorly crafted outside of the CGI that I don’t watch it again (a lot of superhero movies). Hence, when something like The Jungle Book comes along, it is precious.
As for the other aspects of the movie, the child actor, Neel Sethi, wasn’t that great as Mowgli but he was passable and the jungle itself with all the animals, trees, and the stunning landscapes were so amazing that it didn’t distract from the movie at all.
I wish they had used more Indian tribal music in the soundtrack to give it a yet more authentic feel. The dazzling visuals mask a lot of small shortcomings though. However, Bill Pope did a very good job with the cinematography and that deserves a mention.