Disney is king of the jungle this year. Between its animated joy Zootopia, the live action reimagining of The Jungle Book, and the upcoming Captain America/Avengers foray, the company has/will stampede critics and the box office in 2016. As unnecessary as I personally believe they are, live action adaptions of classic animated tales seem here to stay – we’ve already seen Oz, Wonderland and Cinderella’s slipper in 3D, among others. However, while it can’t be denied The Jungle Book is a triumph of CGI, the film can’t find solid ground between its classic cartoonish predecessor and the more serious tone it strives for. Ultimately, this version of Bare Necessities is barely necessary.
That’s not to say the movie is completely without merit. Directed by Jon Favreau, the movie follows the animated classic’s tale and adds believable CGI and gorgeous cinematography to the checklist. Almost every character and setting is digitally rendered, but it didn’t matter because the screen is consistently packed with beautiful details. Favreau highlights the natural beauty of this highly unnatural jungle, laying forth the movie’s central argument for its place in the Disney lineup.
First person, second rate
If you thought found footage movies could be dizzying to watch, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Hardcore Henry, as frantic an action movie as the genre gets, was filmed from a first person perspective. Director Ilya Naishuller strapped a GoPro Hero 3 camera to our mute, nameless lead stuntman’s head so that we see all the explosions, car flips and gunfire from an up close and personal perspective. As a gimmick, it mostly works. Some scenes made my stomach flip flop, and in others I barely noticed the novelty. But a 96-minute runtime cannot be sustained by one cool idea alone, and the endless action scenes supported by absolutely no story or character development result in hardcore monotony.
Henry (played by two arms that swing from the corner of the screen) is awoken by his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) screwing robotic limbs back into his body. He can’t remember anything, can’t speak, and is being chased by a bunch of gun-wielding thugs. Their boss is Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), whose bad white wig and unexplained telekinetic powers are perhaps his greatest crimes, because I have no idea why he’s hunting Henry or why he’s the bad guy. He just is.