Thoughts on The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book is the latest giant-budget effort from a Disney machine hell-bent on remaking its entire back catalog of animated movies in live action. No one asked for this movie, but darned if it isn’t great. Director Jon Favreau resists the obvious pitfall of attempting translate an essentially whimsical story into reality by making it dark and gritty (read: somber and boring). The animals and environments look photo-real, but the world remains pure fantasy. The scenery and compositions are otherworldly in their beauty, nothing about the premise is over-explained, and no apologies are made for the animals breaking into song. Although it’s a reverent homage to the Disney classic, it also forges its own path: don’t expect a beat-by-beat reproduction of the original’s plot.
Celebrity voices are recognizable but not stunt casting by any means: Bill Murray makes sense as Baloo (I’d have gone with Jeff Bridges), and Christopher Walken is kind of a genius choice for King Louie.
The Jungle Book was shot entirely (not almost entirely) on blue-screen sets in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, with everything other than Mowgli and a few small sets and props created in CG. Fxguide.com has excellent coverage of the production, especially of the lighting strategy. FX supervisor Rob Legato explains that the approach was based on “our collective memories of what a movie looks like, which is photographed, as opposed to perfected”.
If Favreau’s Jungle Book was too much fun for you, never fear — Andy Serkis is working on a version for Warner Brothers that he promises will be “darker”.
Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War
After a string of outings dealing with intergalactic concerns, Captain America: Civil War brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe squarely back down to earth, finally addressing the problems inherent in superpowered justice. Our heroes clash over philosophical differences, and the film doesn’t cop out of the interpersonal conflict by giving the opposing sides a clear bad guy to unite against.
Cap gets the title, but Civil War is an Avengers movie, minus Thor and the Hulk. Taking these two out of the mix was a smart move — the absence of a literal god and a giant green man help to ground and streamline the proceedings. We have more than adequate replacements in the form of a charismatic and mysterious Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and what’s probably the best on-screen depiction of Spider-Man to date, played by an actual teenager (Tom Holland).
Although not as narratively tight as either Winter Soldier or the first Avengers installment, Civil War comfortably surpasses Age of Ultron and serves as an effective set-up to Marvel’s Phase 3. Alas, now we must begin the arduous year-long wait until Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters. Yes, Spidey was that good.